Two veterans reunite in Rockton after 60 years apart

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) – Carl Sterling and Denny Johnson went from thousands of miles apart to four blocks apart.

“We’ve been coming here since Dee Dee opened two years ago,” said Carl Sterling.

Little did Sterling know that Dee Dee, the owner of his favorite cafe in Rockton, was the daughter of his longtime friend Denny Johnson. It was only a month ago that the two reunited after six decades apart, through small talk at the coffee shop.

“I stood up and said ‘are you Carl Sterling’, and he said ‘yes’, he still didn’t really recognize me,” Johnson said.

“He said ‘Denny Johnson’ and then all the years fell away,” Sterling said. “I could……eyes on the voice, I said yes, it’s Denny.”

Sterling says it was a tear-filled moment.

“We hadn’t seen each other in 60 years until someone asked him where he went to high school,” Johnson said. “It was amazing.”

The two have been friends since they were five years old, but after graduating from Harlem High School, they lost touch. Johnson moved to Alaska for a few years while in the Air Force and remained local thereafter. Sterling was in the Marine Corps, but moved all over the place.

“New Mexico, taught a few years in Texas actually, and moved to Florida,” Sterling said. When I asked him what brought him back to Rockton, his answer was “home.”

Carl says that now that he’s reunited with Johnson, Rockton feels even more at home. The two make up for lost time by going to sporting events together and having weekly coffee at Dee Dee’s.

“We could be twin brothers, we’ve always had the same interests,” Johnson said. “Did the same things.”

“It’s like reuniting with a long-lost brother,” Sterling said.

The Harlem High School baseball team invited Johnson and Sterling, along with another baseball player from their former high school team, to a game later this month. Both men say friendship is one of the greatest gifts a person can have, and staying in touch is extremely important.

Copyright 2022 WIFR. All rights reserved.