Finding love at the right time again

Dieta Sims and Pete Sorgenfrei were junior high and high school sweethearts until graduation sent them off their separate ways. They reconneced and fell in love again in 2011. - Daniel Nash
Dieta Sims and Pete Sorgenfrei were junior high and high school sweethearts until graduation sent them off their separate ways. They reconneced and fell in love again in 2011.
— image credit: Daniel Nash

Sitting in their dining room, Pete Sorgenfrei and Dieta Sims recalled their first date. They had known each other — as friends — since the beginning of eighth grade, while they attended Lakeridge Junior High. As they approached the end of ninth grade, Paul asked Dieta to the freshman dance.

"We were the first ones on the dance floor," Dieta said. "Of course, you know how boys and girls are at that age. Everyone was being a wallflower, but we were able to get the dancing started."

The year was 1983, and the song was "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)," Journey's popular single. To this day, the couple considers most of the band's catalog to be "their songs."

But Pete and Dieta — "Our celebrity couple name is Peta," Dieta joked — haven't been a couple all the way to this day. They were high school sweethearts — off and on, as young love is wont to do — until they went their own separate ways after graduation in 1986. Through 25 years of careers, marriages, children and divorce, the two remained local but saw each other rarely — and only when at least one of them was in a committed relationship.

Two years ago, they finally got the timing right.

"I saw him one day in WinCo," Dieta said. "I was just checking out at the register and he was just coming in to shop. We dropped what we were doing and went to Dixie's in Sumner to catch up."

"I decided I could always do my shopping later," Pete said.

And thus began the rekindling of lost love. It's a curious beast, fed by nostalgia but made strong by each partner's willingness to accept the new facets of the other's life.

"We're not exactly the same people we were back then," Dieta said. "We've both gone through a lot, and we've changed in some ways."

"But she's still a sweet, nice girl," Pete said.

"He is, too," Dieta said. "He's still a very kind man."

Pete was a football player for the Sumner Spartans — athletic, cute and kind to others, Dieta said — and Dieta a cheerleader; they won the school's boys and girls sportsmanship awards over the course of their athletic careers. Both said the thrill of attending a Spartan football game at the beginning of their reconnection — the wail of the band, the beating of the drums, the excitement of a touchdown — brought them right back to the old days.

"I guess it's some of both," Pete said, about the virtues of reliving old memories versus making new ones. "You'll always be fond of those kid memories."

"Of course," Dieta said. "It's a carefree time. We had no responsibilities, nothing to worry about."

"But there's more people involved than just the two of us now," Pete said.

They have three kids between them: Dieta has two boys in the house, ages 12 and 16, and Pete has a 21-year-old daughter away from home.

"The boys are awesome," Pete said.

"Pete and my sons love spending time together," Dieta said. "He's really good with the kids.

"I like his daughter. She comes over here a lot. She's really sweet, went to beauty school, just a beautiful girl. It makes you realize the amount of time that's gone by; don't waste a day of it."

Even as days pass, the two share their own personal time machine: The San Juans, where Pete's mother now has a home. It was a place they went to often in their high school years, and the source of some of Pete's favorite memories of that time in their lives. Riding motorcycles through the hills, passing wild sheep, green grass and a clear sky protected by the Washington rain shadow; nothing else preserves the carefree days quite as well. Both share a longstanding love of the outdoors.

"We have a lot of the same interests," Pete said. "Fishing, biking…"

"We were fishing in the woods together long before we ever dated," Dieta said.

"And it kind of blossomed from there," Pete said.

He turned to Dieta, realizing something.

"You know, I don't know if I ever actually asked you to go out with me, except maybe to that freshman dance," he said. "We just grew together. I think that's the best way to start a relationship."

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