Former high school sweethearts now happily married in Missouri City
By Michael Sudhalter
White and Ballard grew up in the Houston Heights and were briefly high school sweethearts at Reagan High in 1963.
They went their separate ways. After both became divorced and widowed, they re-connected on classmates.com, an early digital precursor to social networking sites like Facebook, in 2003 and married the following year.
The Missouri City couple has been happily married for the past 11+ years. Their story earned them first place in The Star’s Valentine’s Day Contest.
They chose the prize of attending the Sugar Land Skeeters’ Valentine’s Murder Mystery Dinner on Sunday at Constellation Field — a value of $170.
White was a high school junior, and Ballard — now Kathleen White — was a sophomore when they met in a Latin class in the spring of 1963.
“She sat by the pencil sharpener and I sat by the back wall,” White said. Every day before class I would go to the pencil sharpener to sharpen about five pencils and talk to her. Finally I got up enough nerve to ask her to a movie.”
White still has what he believes to be that pencil sharpener that is so symbolic of their relationship.
When Reagan High was being renovated approximately 12 years ago, White went to the school and told a construction worker he’d give him $20 for the pencil sharpener.
The construction worker obliged, and White presented the sentimental gift to his wife for their first Valentine’s Day together.
Circumstances kept them apart in high school.
Jim was operating a lawn-care business and taking care of his father, who was suffering from cancer.
Kathleen was involved in several extracurricular activities such as cheerleading and the storied Reagan Redcoats Drill Team, and her mother put strict limits on her social schedule.
“It broke my heart when I stopped hearing from him in high school,” Kathleen said. “He was a cutie in high school and still is.”
Both Whites said the brief romance was still on his mind over the four subsequent decades.
“A week didn’t go by in 40 years that I didn’t think of her,” Jim said.
Kathleen added, “I thought about him because he was so sweet, kind and gentle.”
In 2003, Kathleen received a message from Jim on classmates.com, and within a day, she returned the message, writing “is this my Jimmy?”
They made plans to meet, but Kathleen’s schedule was limited due to the fact she was taking care of her ailing mother.
Most of their dates were low-key dinners and movies on the couch at Kathleen’s mother’s house in the Houston Heights. Jim would pick up food and bring over movies to watch.
“We had our wedding in her mom’s bedroom so that she could be part of our big day,” Jim said. “I guess I never forgot my first love and now we are finally together.”
These days, Jim and Kathleen live a happy life together. They attend church at The Vineyard in Stafford and both work part-time. Jim is a crossing guard for Fort Bend ISD, and Kathleen fills in sometimes at a local Edward Jones office.
They’ve enjoyed traveling over the past 12 years, including a cruise, a trip to Washington D.C. and a visit to Disney World.