A true Pinelands love story

Glassboro natives met as kids and have made a life together despite obstacles

Courtesy of Nancy Jane Dougherty Jr.
“I now know those little dreams I had when I was a young girl … I was right,” Nancy Jane Dougherty said. “I – without a doubt – knew Jesse, George Jesse DeGarmo, is and will always be the love of my life.”

It’s a Valentine’s Day story out of the Pinelands.

Meet Nancy Jane Dougherty Jr. and George Jesse DeGarmo. They are Pinelands sweethearts with a story that goes back to 1984. They met in Glassboro, where they attended the same school and hung out with similar crowds.

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“I now know those little dreams I had when I was a young girl … I was right,” Dougherty said. “I without a doubt knew Jesse, George Jesse DeGarmo, is and will always be the love of my life.”

It took a bit of time – years, decades actually – before their true love story began.

“She was a cute little Irish girl with a cute accent,” recalled DeGarmo. “My mother saw me looking at her and she told me not to mess with her. I respected that and over the years we kept in touch, nothing more than friends.

“In time, age gave us the opportunity to care more freely, be open a bit more and circumstances allowed us to bond properly, I guess,” he added. “We have so much in common and it’s sickening, in a good way,” he joked. “This is the reason why I care and love her. But she’s still a pain in …”  

DeGarmo lived on a farm in Glassboro with a rich family history in the area and Dougherty was adopted from Northern Ireland and brought to the Pinelands in 1977. The two crossed paths on several occasions, but the timing never worked until recently, when they were reunited and the love story was complete. 

When Dougherty first visited DeGarmo’s family farm with peers, she recalled that “At some point, his mother Carmen, peace be with her as she has left this world, was at her kitchen window and saw me at a moment when the DeGarmo boys were walking past me.

“I had no idea that Jesse turned around and looked at me,” Dougherty remembered, “but his mother saw him and called them into the house. She was Latino, and Spanish was spoken. She made it very clear to Jesse, ‘… Leave that girl alone.'”

DeGarmo did what he was told. That’s how the story went for a while, with DeGarmo and Dougherty living separate lives. He went overseas with the military and she continued with her life. They each got married and had children. They would run into each other here and there.

“… If we saw each other, even from a distance, we would turn around if need be and meet and hug each other,” Dougherty noted of those run-ins. “Neither of us talked about the world we lived in, except we had kids and, clearly, jobs. And the good old days.”

Then she and DeGarmo separated from their spouses and got divorced in the same week, in the same year, something they didn’t know until recently. 

One could say the rest is history. DeGarmo and Dougherty, who are now in their 50s, shared their loved story with The Sun.

Dougherty had a tough life. She raised several children – foster kids, exchange students and seven adoptees – birthing three all on her own. She was born with MHE/MHO (Multiple Hereditary Exostoses or Osteochondroma), a very rare bone disease, and went through college while raising her family, holding a full-time job and being disabled.

She also was diagnosed with breast cancer.

DeGarmo has been through recent health scares as well, having recently had back-to-back heart attacks, a triple heart bypass and addiction issues. He is set to have a hip replacement, pelvic reconstruction and a knee replacement. 

Dougherty has been at his side the whole time. 

Despite their struggles, the couple have always stuck to each other – and the Pinelands.

“We lose people, places and things, but we still have the Earth, mother nature and for us, we can still visit the Pinelands,” Dougherty observed. “I am just thinking about the last six months or so. Watching things change within my own household – let alone within myself – and now Jesse.

“I have learned so much, but nothing (has been) more important than this.”

The couple celebrated Valentine’s Day together in the Pinelands, recounting the love and adversity they’ve faced to be together. 

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