FEDERAL WAY — Tucked away in a local neighborhood lives a decades-long romance that bloomed out of a reunion on a California freeway in the 1970s.
Now, the love story between Federal Way residents Pat and Margery Godfrey has inspired a new Hallmark Channel movie: “A Godwink Christmas — Second Chance, First Love,” premiering at 7 p.m. Sunday.
In Los Angeles in the late 1970s, Pat Godfrey was in the process of his second divorce, taking custody of two kids and battling his alcoholism. He had resolved to never marry again and, ultimately, had given up on love.
One night, he was going over photo albums with his mother and came across a photo of him and his on-again, off-again high school sweetheart, Margery. Pat was a basketball player, Margery was a cheerleader.
He said the first day he had met her in seventh grade was “the end.”
“I didn’t think of it as ‘you captured my heart and I’m never going to get it back again,’” he said, with a laugh. “But it was. I was just so attracted to her. She was such a pistol. She was somebody to watch and pay attention to.”
The two had lost touch after high school, both moving to different states — Margery to New Mexico for college and Pat to Hawaii — and launching into successful careers of their own. Pat recalls asking his mother that night: “Why couldn’t I have just married Margery in the first place?”
Though, at this point, they hadn’t seen each other in about 15 years, Pat felt he could find her again.
So, he picked up the phone book and began calling every Southworth (her maiden name) in the Los Angeles area — none of which proved to be related to the Margery he was searching for.
The next morning, Pat got an overwhelming sense that he should take a different route to work. He decided to go by Santa Monica, which was about 45 minutes out of the way of his usual commute from Palos Verdes to Hollywood.
As he was pulling up to the San Diego Freeway (I-405), the meter on-ramp light turned red, and a tan-colored van pulled up alongside him honking its horn.
“I look over and there’s a woman sitting in the van. She lifts her dark glasses up, and it’s Margery,” he said. “I just start unraveling, like ‘this is unbelievable.’ At first I started laughing, then I started crying, then I started laughing again.”
On the freeway, the two quickly put their blinkers on to exit and pulled into a nearby parking lot. After catching up briefly, Patrick got Margery’s phone number and they began dating shortly after. The two married about a year later in 1979.
Years later, while the couple was living in the Seattle area, they discovered author Robert Fulghum was raising money for Habitat for Humanity by writing a book about love stories. Pat contacted the organization and pitched their love story. The Godfrey’s story was published in the 1997 book “True Love.”
Their love story soon took off.
USA Today reached out to the couple to do a Valentine’s Day feature, garnering more attention as the book became a New York Times bestseller. The book’s profits raised about half a million dollars for Habitat for Humanity.
Local news outlets caught wind of their magical reunion meeting, traveling from those news networks to the Oprah Winfrey Show.
In 2016, author Squire Rushnell presented their love story on his monthly NBC TODAY segment. Rushnell collects and writes stories titled “Godwinks,” representing “those little ‘coincidences’ that didn’t feel like coincidence, but instead, seemed to be a tangible connection to a divine source,” according to his website.
The Godfreys’ love story went into Rushnell’s 10th Godwinks book, “The Godwink Effect,” and was quickly selected as the third movie of the Hallmark Godwink Movie Series: “A Godwink Christmas — Second Chances, First Love,” Rushnell said.
The movie stars Brooke D’Orsay and Sam Page, “whose chemistry will remind the real Margie and Pat of their own love story.”
Filmed in Idaho, Kathie Lee Gifford is the movie’s executive producer. She starred in the series’ first two films, but due to pandemic restrictions, was unable to take on a role for the third.
“The wonderful outcome is that, while watching a wonderful movie, you can learn to see the Godwinks that happen all around us, in our own lives,” Rushnell said.
With a laugh, Pat said he’s amazed the hype has been going on for 18-plus years and how throwing a pebble in a pond has carried so many ripples with it. The couple said they are thankful to have received the gift of their relationship, and have the ability to share that gift with others.
“I think it inspires hope,” he said. “I’m moved by other people’s stories that are fascinating, interesting and unlikely, and that just touch you at a real deep level. I think this [love story] probably touches people at a real deep, kind of soulful level.”
Eventually, all the puzzle pieces of life fit together perfectly, he said, even if when you’re going through trials it doesn’t seem that way.
“I know good things are happening,” he said. “My wife is proof of that to me.”
Tune in to the Hallmark Channel to watch “A Godwink Christmas — Second Chance, First Love” at 7 p.m. Nov. 22.