Interracial Couple Reunite & Marry 40 Years After Their Parents Forced Them To Break Up

Photo: Teresa Tovar Romero/Shutterstock
Interracial Couple Reunite & Marry 40 Years After Their Parents Forced Them To Break Up As Teens

A couple who was forced to break up due to racist opinions on their relationship have now reunited after more than 40 years thanks to Facebook. 

Penny Umbers and Mark Bethel met in the 1970s in the UK when Bethel attended Trent College, near Nottingham. 

Bethel, originally from the Bahamas returned home and continued to send love letters to Umbers. 

Soon, Bethel returned to the UK to attend a college in London. Umbers also attended a university nearby and they continued their relationship. 

But, interracial relationships were still a taboo at the time.

After Bethel’s parents stopped financially supporting him and after Umbers’ father threatened to have his scholarship revoked if he did not end the relationship, he was forced to make a decision. 

“I didn’t have much power. I was 3,000 miles from home in a foreign country. I was totally dependent on my scholarship,” Bethel said.  

Bethel broke up with Umber suddenly and she never knew why.

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She ended up quitting college and actually attempted to take her own life. She went on to be divorced twice and became an executive assistant in the UK. 

Bethel, finished his degree and went into hotel management. He also went on to have a divorce but continued to try to find Umbers.  

But, at the end of 2019 he found a photo of her on Facebook and asked if it was Penny. 

"And then it was!" Bethel said.

For the first time in 40 years Umbers finally learned what had happened in school. 

The couple's parents had disapproved of their relationship.

"He had been talking to my father in the garden and I remember thinking they had so much in common because they both liked sports. But in actual fact, my father had said to him ‘you’ve had your fun, now move on boy’” Umbers recalled the distant conversation.

Umbers was shocked. She had been incredibly close with her father and had felt betrayed by him. 

“He knew I had very unhappy marriages and had never fulfilled the potential I had. I think he didn’t want a Black son-in-law so he justified it to himself” Umbers said. 

However, Umbers explained her father has Alzthemier’s and will not be able to discuss the matter with him now.

"My values have been shifting ever since Mark reconnected with me, since I realised that he had loved me all along. I have my own self-esteem now, knowing that Mark loved me all those years," Umbers said.  

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Bethel's parents also weren't happy with him courting a white girl.

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The couple are back together almost 40 years later.

After coronavirus travel restrictions loosened in June she flew out to see Bethel in New Providence Island in the Bahamas. “There was that feeling of reuniting, but it was like we hadn’t changed one iota” Umbers said. 

Then, when Umbers returned in early October, Bethel proposed after she got off the plane.

The couple have since written a book entitled, Thirty-Nine Years in the Wilderness through Story Terrace in order to raise awareness.    

Umbers will now be living in the Bahamas with Bethel as they plan to marry. 

"I want to sing it from the rooftops," Umbers said.

“We have had 39 lost years but we are looking forward to a really great future,” Bethel said. 

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Sydney Taylor is a writer who focuses on News and Entertainment topics.