Love stories: First love, reunited for Jeremy and Jessica McGinnis


February 16, 2021 - 9:37 AM

Jeremy and Jessica McGinnis

By Jeremy McGinnis


In the summer of 1996 I came to Iola, to start training for a soccer scholarship I earned at Allen Community College. To make some extra money and to get to know the town, I got a job as a Pizza Hut delivery driver. 

One night delivering pizzas, in my blue polo and short black shorts (they’re making a comeback), I got a call to a house where I delivered to a group of college students and later to be found was spotted by a future crush at said gathering. This is what I was told later by her. I was focused on my delivery duties and continued on my way. It was not until after school started I spotted her in the notorious ACC “fish pond.”  She was wearing a flower sundress and sitting on the second step in front of room A25. I was immediately done for. I was a freshman and she was a sophomore. I didn’t know how to go about talking to her but if I wasn’t playing soccer, she was all I could think about. 

One day a fellow teammate and mutual friend told me about a girl that was interested in me. I was curious of course. It was the girl in the sundress. Her name was Jessie and she played on the softball team. I was blown away but still unsure how to make my move. I decided to go to Duane’s Flowers and write a very shy note (which she still has) letting her know how bashful I was but was very interested in meeting her. I found out through our mutual friend she was attending a college gathering and we should go. I was very nervous but was ready to find some way to introduce myself. 

I walked in the house and spotted Jessica with a group talking. There she was, receiving a chummy shoulder rub from one of her softball teammates. I very slyly went up to her friend without Jessica knowing and took her place. After a few minutes of me giving the shoulder rub instead of her teammate she turned around in complete shock to find me. In my delight she laughed and smiled. I then knew that’s all I ever wanted to see: her face laughing and smiling. “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James was playing in the background and we talked all night about everything.

Numerous dates and being a spectator at each other’s games went on through the year. She became the first girl I told I loved. I did corny teenage things like spray paint “Jeremy loves Jess” and “JM+JH” inside hearts at the trestles/graffiti bridge on Valentine’s Day. Being a poor college student, this was a very “cost friendly” way of spending Valentine’s Day. We have many great memories of long talks and listening to music at the trestles/graffiti bridge during the year. 

Like most love stories it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. We parted ways after she graduated. We tried to stay in touch and talk on the phone a few times but I stayed at Allen for my sophomore year and Jess moved on after graduation. So we went our separate ways. It was tough to continue at Allen with so many memories of her, my first love.

After 12 years went by, I got an email from Jess. I happened to be coaching at Allen as an assistant in my third year at that position. She saw my coaching profile on the Allen soccer page website after navigating through the softball page as an interested alumnus. She asked me if I remembered her and how I was. I told her, “I could never forget my first love; of course I remember you.” We met after a soccer game I coached in Johnson County one afternoon. She came to eat pizza with the team. I walked her to her car with a bus load of college students yelling, “kiss her, and kiss her.” She turned to them and said, “This is not our first rodeo!” I got in the car with her to have more privacy and I did just that, I kissed her. Jason Mraz’s “I’m yours” was playing on the radio. 

Five more years of dates getting to know each other, summers living together and two different coaching jobs I found myself back at the trestles/graffiti bridge spray painting those four important words followed by a question mark, “Will you marry me?”  (I had a little help at the time with a friend holding the ladder and plotting on getting Jess down to Iola to show her my new artwork)

Once again. taking the cost-friendly way, because what I had in my pocket was not so cost-friendly. I got Jess to agree to come and visit old friends here in Iola because one of our friends just had a baby. She wanted to pick out baby clothes on the way down. I just wanted to get to the bridge. 

I got her to the bridge with the suggestion we see if the old graffiti was still there. As she got out of the car and looked up I got down on a knee (not plotting out all the rocks going into my kneecap) as she looked back at me and I told her, “you’re the first woman I ever loved and I want you to be the last.” 

We got married on June 8, 2013. Gerry Rafferty was playing “Right down the Line” as she walked down the aisle. 

We have a six-year-old daughter named Riley.  Iola is our home with jobs in the community and I got to marry my first love, my best friend and college sweetheart.

As much as that graffiti was fun on Valentine’s Day I hope putting this story in the newspaper will do the trick instead. Too cold to graffiti this year. 



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