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Finding Love Again

8:41 AM, Feb 28, 2013   |    comments
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CLARENCE, N.Y. -- The saying goes, you only find true love once. Steve Diver and Jan Vesper both found their soul mates years ago, before two tragedies brought them to each other.

Steve met his wife Joan back in college. She worked as a nurse, he as a professor.

Steve's job brought them to Western New York, where Joan put her career on hold to raise their four kids. They were healthy, happy and loving life, until one day Joan went for a run and never returned home.

She was the final victim of the Bike Path Rapist.

WEB EXTRA: For the first time, Steve spoke about his wife's murder, the investigation, and the suspicion that surrounded him. Click here for that full story.

"My father in-law told me, 'You're young. You're going to get re-married one day," Steve said. "And I was like, 'I don't think so.' I just didn't think it was going to happen.

Around that time, Jan Vesper was living her dream life. She was married to Jon, the Clarence High School Wrestling Coach and the love of her life. They were raising three kids and had just found out another was on the way when Jon suddenly collapsed at their home.

"He basically had a heart attack," Jan said.

Jon, the healthy athlete and beloved family man died at just 40 years old.

"He was fun," Jan said. "He loved his family. He loved his children, very much."

The youngest Cael arrived about 6 months after her father's passing.

"When Cael was born, just knowing that a piece of him was with us, and it made the family unit stronger, because we all got to experience that," Jan said.

Two lives were lost, two families torn apart, and two single parents trying to cope with the sudden and shocking loss. Their savings grace was the kids, who for both were the top priority.

"We thought we were happy," Steve said. "We were. We made do. We were content with our kids, and we were just doing the best we could to live our lives, and we seemed like we were pretty happy. And then when we ran into each other, it was like, well this is another dimension of happiness now that we just hadn't realized."

They ran into each other thanks to a mutual friend. She gave Steve Jan's number, and he waited until the right moment to call.

"When I called her the first time, I'm like, 'Is this a bad time?'" Steve said. "She was driving in her car with the kids, and there was lots of yelling going on."

But they eventually set up a date. Just two months later -- they were house hunting together!

"So you quickly realized that there was something to this?" 2 On Your Side's Michael Wooten asked.

"Yes. Yeah, we had a lot of signs from above I think," Jan responded.

Steve added, "The puzzle pieces all fit together, perfectly."

The biggest pieces of that puzzle were their combined 8 kids. But the families perfectly blended into one, symbolized during a sand ceremony at their wedding in 2010.

Everyone chose a color and poured the sand into a vase. And not just Steve, Jan and the kids. Jon and Joan were also part of the service, light blue for Jon's eyes and yellow for Joan's favorite color.

"It was symbolic of the importance of Joan and Jon's memory as being part of our blended family," Steve explained.

"Did you ever think that you would find love like this again? Or did you worry that you wouldn't?" Wooten asked.

"No, never," Joan responded.

Steve said, "I didn't think it was going to happen. I didn't have any expectations that it would happen."

But it did. And this modern-day Brady Bunch is getting along great!

"It's crazy," Jan said. "I mean, trying to keep everything in order and organized. The key is to be organized and know who is supposed to go where, when."

They're busy taking care of Conrad, Collin, Claudie and Carter. Plus Brittany, Nathan, Grace and Cael. Conrad, the oldest, is in the military. The rest spend a lot of time at home. With all those kids and a dog, it's always exciting.

"How do you balance all that?" Wooten asked.

"Day by day," Jan said.

A typical day includes eating dinner in shifts, depending on the kids' activities. Grocery shopping is never less than 2 carts. And then there is the laundry.

"You have to do laundry every single day," Jan said. "I'm doing laundry right now. I mean, it doesn't ever stop!"

And keep in mind, Jan also works, running her own business from home. The Diver-Vesper household is hectic, but they wouldn't have it any other way. The kids play together, the family eats together when they can, and they all share the memories of those no longer with them!

You'll find pictures of Joan and Jon all over the house.

"When we got married, we realized that these people are very important to us and our kids," Steve said. "They're part of us. They're part of our families, and they're part of our memories."

Memories that live on. Joan was an avid runner and loved the outdoors. So Steve started a memorial marathon, running in Joan's honor. Jan joined Steve at this past November's Turkey Trot, both dressed as super heroes.

"We have two families, and we consider ourselves a super family, because our two families are combined together," Steve told us back then.

The family has also fully embraced a yearly wrestling tournament in Jon's memory.

"To see like one of his kids is now a coach for another team, and it just means the world to us," Jan said.

Jan started the tournament 6 years ago, and it's still going strong. All the money raised benefits a scholarship named in honor of Jon.

"I think he would be very grateful that it's going on six years later, that the momentum has not faded out, and everyone's still here supporting him," Daughter Brittany Vesper said.

Two families, touched by tragedies, that years later brought them together.

"We didn't realize that the love could be that deep again, so it was pretty amazing," Steve said.

Despite being very busy with all the kids, Jan and Steve are active in the community. And they help others who have lost their spouses. They both agreed that it's not about giving advice, but instead they listen, show someone cares, and let their story show that there can be life and love after loss.

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