Thurston originally sent Hersey, packing on week two of season 17, which aired in summer 2021. While she originally claimed the California native “was her type” after he walked out of the limo, she failed to give him a rose by the second ceremony.
The two eventually struck up a friendship post-show after running into each other unexpectedly in San Diego. Thurston was still in the midst of a long-distance relationship with season 17 winner Blake Moynes at the time.
“John is surfing on this exact beach — very, very randomly, a rose floats by in the water. And he’s like, ‘That’s incredibly strange.’ … Just a very strange occurrence,” the duo’s mutual friend Stephen Lovegrove recalled during a September 2021 episode on Us’ “Here for the Right Reasons” podcast. “He surfs, he goes home, we take photos, we get ice cream, we go home. And later that afternoon, John sees from Katie’s account, all these photos go up and realizes as he was surfing with this random rose floating by, he was literally 100 feet away from the Bachelorette, who he had just filmed this season [with]. It was such a random coincidence that we didn’t find out about till a long time later.”
During her trip, Thurston was also spotted at Duke’s in La Jolla, where Hersey was a bartender. As her season aired in summer 2021, fans began to speculate that the duo had started dating and by October of that year, Thurston and Moynes, 31, announced their split.
“It is with mutual love and respect that we have decided to go our separate ways. We are so grateful for the moments we shared together and the entire journey that has unfolded this year, but we ultimately have concluded that we are not compatible as life partners, and it is the most caring choice for both of us to move forward independently,” the former couple said in joint statement at the time. “We ask for kindness and privacy as we both navigate this transition. Both of us will forever want the best for one another and ask you to please support us in our decision.”
Thurston then dedicated Swift’s “Begin Again” to the bartender and Us Weekly exclusively revealed at the time that fans could take the song’s lyrics as a confirmation of the pair’s relationship.
In March 2022, Thurston gushed about her relationship with Hersey, claiming she was “the happiest” she’s been in a long time.
“It’s very easy to just enjoy and live my life — and that’s kind of what we’re doing. We’re not holding back for anybody,” she exclusively told Us on the red carpet at the People’s Choice Awards. “We’re in the honeymoon phase right now. He was my best friend before, so I think that’s what makes it, honestly, the best.”
Hersey, for his part, took to social media on the one-year anniversary of his Bachelorette exit to reflect on his time with the bank marketing manager.
“It is mind-boggling to think that it has been exactly 1 year since this evening. Contrary to what @thekatiethurston says, I’d absolutely have believed I could be right here in this moment,” he wrote via Instagram alongside a photo of his departure from The Bachelorette. “Thank you to all of you who have joined me in this journey this past year. I am so grateful to have been surrounded by such a supportive and positive community. With so many adventures on the horizon, I can’t wait to bring you all along.”