Teenage Sweethearts Who Split After Parents Disapproved Of Mixed-Race Romance Get Married
Two teenage sweethearts have finally gotten married, 39 years after they split up because their parents disapproved of their mixed-race relationship.
Penny Umbers was 16 years old when she fell in love with Mark Bethel in the 1970s.
The pair first met when Bethel, aged 17, flew out to attend Trent College public school, near Nottingham, from Nassau in the Bahamas. Umbers attended a private school nearby and the couple later went on to study at different London universities.
However, Umbers’ father soon paid Bethel a visit while he was studying Travel and Tourism Management, and ordered that the student end his relationship with his daughter.
Umbers’ father pressurised Bethel into breaking up with Umbers by threatening to have his scholarship taken away, claiming to know people in authoritative positions to help enforce his discriminatory views, Birmingham Live reports.
Bethel’s own parents held similar attitudes and did not support him being in a relationship with a white girl, and even withdrew Bethel’s financial support.
Bethel explained how he ‘didn’t have much power’ as he was ‘3,000 miles from home in a foreign country’ and ‘totally dependent on [his] scholarship’.
He resultantly ended up having to make what he called the ‘hardest decision of [his] life’.
Bethel noted how ‘heart-breaking’ the decision was to make, and that he had to make it ‘in isolation’ too.
He finished his degree upon the relationship being ended, but Umbers dropped out of college.
While Bethel ran hotels all around the world and had one failed relationship, Umbers got married and divorced twice. However, the pair never forgot about each other.
Bethel says he always searched for Umbers, but due to her names changes as a result of her marriages, it made it seemingly impossible to track her down.
However, in 2019 while scrolling through Facebook, Bethel founds a picture of a woman that he thought could be her, so messaged to ask, ‘Is this Penny?’.
Upon discovering each other once again, the pair were kept apart for another 18 months due to the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on travel.
But in June 2021, Umbers flew out to meet Bethel, and they reunited for the first time in nearly 40 years on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas.
There was that feeling of reuniting. But it was like we hadn’t changed one iota.
Bethel proposed to Umbers earlier this month, and the pair have gone on to write a book called Thirty-Nine Years in the Wilderness to shed light on their story.
Umbers has since decided to move to the Bahamas, however she noted it was a ‘big step’ as there are ‘very few mixed race couples in the Bahamas’.
Despite the challenges they have faced, the couple are now ‘looking forward to a great future’, with Umbers saying how she has ‘never loved anyone the way [she] loves Mark’.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk
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