bouquet of white flowers laying on a beach, a couple is being wed in the background
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
April 5, 2024 ·  5 min read

They Fell in Love in the 1980s but Married Other People. 23 Years Later They Reconnected

From childhood, we fantasize about the kind of love that sweeps you off your feet and makes your body tingle. However, is usually considered a once-in-a-lifetime kind of love. Grace Migliaccio and her, now, Husband John lived on opposite ends of the world when they met. Their story is full of complexities but after 23 years, they’ve reconnected.

The Pair Met at a Party

Grace was in her early 20s and met the love of her life in 1984. Although they wouldn’t be together long, theirs was a storybook love. John Hiron was in the U.S. on a Visa, from Australia. After they met, John extended his trip as long as he could. Eventually, his Visa expired, forcing the couple to test the waters of a long-distance relationship.

Plans to Visit Fall Through

Grace had been saving money to buy a ticket to visit John, but the long-distance had put so much strain on their relationship. Feeling a sense of anxiety, she called John hoping to get some reassurance. “I had a dream that I was making a huge mistake,” Grace told CNN Travel. “I just had a really bad gut feeling I shouldn’t go.”

When Grace phoned John, he wasn’t home, and it took him over 36 hours to return her call. “I needed him to say, ‘You’re doing the right thing,'” she recalls. “But he wasn’t home.” When John finally got back to her, his lukewarm response was all Grace needed to rethink her travel plans. “Should I come?” Grace asked. And was met with, “If you want to.” in response. Grace said of those defining moments, “I didn’t get on the plane.” John now reflects on that crucial moment stating, “I said the wrong thing, without a doubt,” blaming his immaturity.

Image Credit: Susan Payor Wilkerson | CNN

Losing the Connection

Slowly their communication diminished, John recalls, “I would call periodically. One year I called, and she got married. And then I called again, and her parents had died.” Grace says the intermittent calls were not always desirable adding, “I would swear, ‘l am not going to talk to him anymore. Because it would stir up emotions. But every time he would call, I would take the call, of course. But I would swear this is the last time we’re going to talk.”


Coincidentally both had separated from their partners and in January of 2007 the two leaned on each other for support. By this time, webcams had become available. “I went to the local Staples, and I bought an external webcam, and I plugged it in and had to figure out how to use it,” says Grace. “And we saw each other for the first time in 22 years. Your mind tricks your eye, and you see the person from age 22, you don’t see the person who’s 45.” Grace said of their first moments face to face. She continues, “from the minute we actually saw each other, it was super emotional — this almost visceral reaction.”

Read: Jewish Couple Has Been Married for 91 Years, Have 64 Grandchildren, and Are Still Deeply in Love

Seeking a Professional’s Advice

Eventually, John suggested he come to the US. Grace felt apprehensive and sought advice from her marriage counselor. Grace recalls, “She said, ‘This will be good for you to see each other, and you’ll never see each other again. So, it’s kind of a very safe thing to do. You’re not going to get into something complicated, because how could you? You’re so far away.’ That was her advice. And that backfired…

In March of 2008, with a bottle of champagne and some chocolate-covered strawberries, Grace picked John up from Newark Airport. Grace says of their reunion, “it was like getting back a missing piece of myself that I hadn’t realized was lost for so long.” John had a similar sentiment stating, “It was amazing.” “It was all very familiar and comfortable.” he continues.

Image Credit: Kevin Rockwood Photography | CNN

Rekindling the Flame

They spent more time together and before long it became apparent that these two were more than just friends. “We were like, ‘We made a mistake, maybe we were young, maybe it was the right mistake and things worked out the way they were supposed to. But we can’t just go back to now being apart again,'” Grace explained of the reunion.

During their visit, they reread the letters John had written to Grace. She said, “It literally made us cry, to see the depth of emotion then, and that we could have let it slip away.” Despite their current complications, Grace made the choice to go to Australia for a visit. Less than a year later John moved to the States and the couple eloped. “I was very emotional because we waited a lifetime, really, to say those words,” Grace explained of their wedding day. “Falling in love again, 23 years later, was as bittersweet and complicated, as much as it was “euphoric.”

Cultivating a Loving Home

John said of moving away from his kids, “It was extremely hard, extremely emotional.” Grace also admitted, “It was a couple of years of really difficult times with that move.” As time went on the families adjusted and before long the pair were able to split their time between countries. The situation ended up playing out so well that some of John’s children have been able to study and work in the US.

The kids have also adjusted to their new family dynamic. Both John and Grace weighed in on the situation. John said, “What’s amazing is all the five kids get on pretty well together. We can take them on a vacation, and everyone gets on well, we have a good time.” Meanwhile Grace expressed a deeper sentiment stating, “We like to think that in the end, when you get past the pain, we made all of our kids’ lives so much bigger, and set a great example for love.”

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