They were teen sweethearts. 75 years later, they meet by chance – and hit it off

·3 min read

They were teenage sweethearts 75 years ago. A chance encounter at a northwest London breakfast joint brought them back together.

Now, Ross Dilling, 94, and Orene McNaughton, 90, are rekindling their friendship over coffee and toast at the city's Early Riser Cafe.

Dilling, who lives across from the restaurant, and McNaughton, an Ilderton resident, spent hours Thursday morning renewing old memories from their choir days at Grace United Church, where they met.

"We had a lot of good times together singing. She has a beautiful voice," Dilling said of McNaughton, who sat beside him.

"We were wonderful together. The problem was, there was no TV in those days. We should've been on TV," he said, grinning.

Dilling bumped into McNaughton at the cafe the first time on Sept. 15.

He and his nephew were there for breakfast, a daily routine for the two.

McNaughton, who had never been at the Early Riser before, was seated in the booth across from their table. She thought she recognized his smile and asked the server to confirm his last name.

"Dilling," the server, Pam Gibson, said.

"That's him!" McNaughton said.

That's when Dilling went over to say hello.

"He came over and he said, 'So, should I know you?'" McNaughton said. "I said, damn well you should," she added, laughing.

That started an hours-long conversation, enough time for the two to determine the last time they saw each other was in 1944.

McNaughton and Dilling spent several years singing together in the church choir and its young people's group before parting ways.

Dilling, who grew up on a farm near Clinton and lived in London, had left the city to work in Toronto at Canada Trust. He never married and is now single. McNaughton married in 1953. Her husband died about five years ago.

When asked whether the two dated, McNaughton smiled.

"I don't know whether you'd call it dating or not. Let's just say you used to walk me home," she said, looking at Dilling, beside her.

"Ya, I think so," he said, smiling.

The pair have seen each other three times since mid-September, including for McNaughton's 90th birthday earlier this month.

Thursday, friends and family came for another visit, this time a surprise reunion, something McNaughton and Dilling said was unexpected, but made them elated, nonetheless.

"It's been amazing that they have found a new friend," Kathy McNaughton, Orene's daughter, said of the reunion.

"Who knows what will happen. It's like young love, 75 years later."

As for their relationship, Dilling and McNaughton both said they're excited to continue rekindling their friendship, but are not so sure about dating, adding "we're too old" for that.

The duo plans to celebrate Dilling's upcoming 95th birthday in mid-November.

Making sure to solidify those plans, McNaughton slipped Dilling a small piece of paper on his way out of the restaurant. On it was her phone number.

"Don't let it go through the washing machine," she said across the room, beaming.

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press

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