There are as many “how we met” stories as there are couples. Some aren’t so surprising: You find each other at a party, through an online dating site or thanks to a mutual friend. But many great love stories begin when people least expect it — while stuck in a traffic jam, surrounded by caskets at a funeral home, or returning a silly movie at a video store, for instance.
The stories of those fateful encounters are among those we gathered from our AARP.org readers and Facebook followers, all of whom seemed to feel that however their paths crossed, their love was meant to be. In their own words, here are a few of our favorite tales.
Stuck in Traffic
Almost 19 years ago, when I was in my early 30s, I was stuck in rush-hour traffic on Interstate 5 in Seattle. Anthony was a passenger in a car next to mine, carpooling to work with a friend of his. He’d look over at me and smile and I’d smile, and he’d wave, then I’d wave. This went on for about 10 minutes. Then he finally wrote his telephone number and his name, “Tony,” on a piece of paper, and held it to the window (at his friend’s prodding, I found out later). I dug around in my purse and found an envelope and an eyeliner, and wrote his number down before we separated. I called him that night, and said, “This is your I-5 friend,” and we talked for three hours. He told me he was divorced and had a 2-year-old daughter and was literally starting his life all over again. We set a coffee date for two days later, and hit it off. We married four years later, the day before Valentine’s Day. I just think: If I were 30 seconds earlier or later getting on the road, it may have kept me from this amazing man. I was so lucky to be driving by.
— Elizabeth Harper Servedio, 51, Seattle
All in the Family
My son Tom and Bill’s daughter, Ashley, were engaged to be married in Florida. When I met Ashley before the wedding, she joked with me and said, “You know, my dad’s single and I think he’s good looking.” Bill had been divorced for some years, living in West Virginia, and I’d been a widow for seven years, living in St. Louis. We met for the first time the night before our kids’ wedding, and I thought, “Well, he’s not bad.” He started calling and texting me after that, and finagled an invitation to St. Louis, staying with me and my roommate for a few days. I was always hesitant because of the situation — if the relationship went sour, we had kids involved in this — but it was pretty much love at first sight. After two years of a long-distance romance we were married in 2010, and moved to Florida — the same area where it all started. You never know where you will meet the love of your life.
— Debbey Pittinger, 71, Tampa, Florida
They'll Always Have Paris
It was the fall of 1967 and I was a newly graduated nurse in New York. I purchased a three-month train pass and Europe on $5 a Day and departed on a student ship for Europe with three friends from nursing school. We ended our trip in Paris, arriving at the Arc de Triomphe at noon on a Saturday, where one friend and I had agreed to meet our two travel buddies arriving from a different direction. What better place to meet than a really obvious landmark in that beautiful city? I soon noticed two young men seated nearby, also apparently waiting for someone. One had long, dark, curly hair, while I had recently had my long hair cut very short in Italy. He thought I was Parisian, and approached me hoping to score a date with a “local.” David was American, studying in London and in Paris for a weekend. A long conversation ensued, since both sets of our friends arrived late. Plans were made for that evening, leading to a glass of wine at Cafe Les Deux Magots. Later we wandered the gorgeous streets of Paris, ending up at the Napoleonic Fountains, with the lighted Eiffel Tower just across the Seine. As fountains cascaded around us, we embraced for our first kiss and our lives were changed forever. David and I still visit Paris and often recall with love that Parisian moment we met.
— Judy Knauer, 73, Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts
"Sound of Music" Story
Loren’s and my love story began 26 years ago. I was a single, divorced mom at 32, with two little boys. I had my own in-home day care business and worked as a hair stylist on the side to try to make ends meet. The pastor at our church, who knew I needed more work, told me that he knew someone who had four kids and could use my help. I started working for him, a single dad, bringing my two boys to his house to care for his four after school. After five weeks I wrote to him to say that I loved his kids, but I wasn’t making enough money and that I needed to find children to care for full-time. I later saw him at church and he said, “I have a proposition for you.” He asked if we could get together and talk. When we did, he told me he’d talked to his kids and they wanted him to do anything he could to keep me. He said, “I’m not allowed to let you go away.” He also told me he saw things in me that he was hoping to find in a woman, and asked if I would go out with him. I was blown away by him. He was the kind of dad I always wanted for my kids, and it became this truly magical story. We got married a year later with our six children (ages 4, 6, 6, 8, 11 and 14) taking part in the ceremony and will be celebrating our 25th anniversary in September with our nine children (we had three together!) and our six grandchildren.
— Sara Dooley, 58, Petaluma, California
A Fresh Start
It was 1976, and I went to work as a temp at my now-husband Ralph’s company in Lexington, Mass. He explained my responsibilities, then he was gone for around three hours. When he came back I said, sarcastically, “Oh, long lunch, huh?” He actually had gone to a meeting. He was so mad, he tried to fire me that day. He went into the president’s office and said, “I want to get rid of that temp, she’s fresh!” But they decided he’d already trained me, so I stayed. We went out for five years and have been married for 38!
— Betty Mahoney Frongello, 63, Parkland, Florida
Finding Love After Loss
Linda’s husband Tim was a carcinoid cancer patient. My wife Debbie was a pancreatic cancer patient. Each had endured surgeries and various treatments that eventually led them to Germany for a treatment program that wasn’t yet available in the U.S. In April 2013 Debbie was getting her last treatment and Tim was getting his first. The four of us happened to meet in the lobby on the first day, and Debbie and I helped Tim and Linda get acquainted with the facility and processes during their weeklong stay at the hospital. At the end of the week, the four of us exchanged contact information and stayed in touch — they were living outside Indianapolis, and we were in California. We didn’t know each other that well, but Debbie and I always thought if they didn’t live so far away from us they’d be great friends.
When Debbie died in September 2015 I notified Tim and Linda, who were living in South Carolina at that point, and when Tim died in February 2017 Linda notified me. Through emails and phone calls I helped Linda through the grief and adjustment process of losing your spouse to cancer. We both had gone down the same path, so it seemed like she was the only person on the planet who could totally relate to my situation and vice versa.
Eventually I flew from California to South Carolina to visit Linda for a week and we had so much fun, we laughed, we cried, we talked about everything. We quickly discovered that we had an incredible level of compatibility and connection, and thought, “This just feels right.” It just happened very naturally and very easily. I remember one day, she looked at me and said, “I love you. I didn’t think I’d ever be saying that to another man in my life.” Linda and Tim were married for 47 years — they were best friends and had this strong, strong marriage. I really understood that, I felt the same way about my wife. In Debbie’s last months she said, “I don’t want you to be alone, I want you to find somebody.” Now Linda and I have each other for our next chapter in life.
— Howard Wilson, 68, El Dorado Hills, California
"Don't Call Me Shirley"
It was about a year after my ex and I had split up, when I went into a video store and was returning the movie Airplane! The nice lady across the counter, said, "Airplane! You’ve got to have a weird sense of humor to like that movie. ... I kind of like weird people." So I joked, in a faux suave voice, “In that case, what are you doing on Friday night?” She responded, “Well, nothing actually.” I said, “Oh,” and left — I thought she was kidding. Later that night a thought hit me like a hammer: “Did she mean I could ask her out?” Well ... duh! Next day I hopped on my bike and pedaled on back there. We went out that Friday night to a comedy show, and later had a very awkward first kiss where I stuck my nose in her eye — but I think we pretty much hit it off. We moved in together a few months later, had a long engagement, then got married. I truly married my best friend. That’s what we were, we were best friends first, and then a real true and meaningful love grew out of that. We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in September.
— Ed Newbegin, 61, Concord, California
A Fateful Funeral
My [now] husband, David, was working as a funeral director in my hometown in Michigan. I went with my mother to the funeral home to make arrangements for my aunt, who had died unexpectedly. We went in the casket room and he was standing there. It wasn’t like a bolt of lightning but I remember saying to myself, “That’s the man I’m going to marry.” I don't know what it was, I just had this thought. When the funeral was over he asked if I would drive with him so he could take the remaining flowers to my grandmother’s house and I could show him how to get there. We got to my grandmother’s house, and I realized he hadn’t asked me for directions the whole way there. We started dating right away, and were engaged three months later — I was 20, he was 22 — and here we are 40 years later!
— Sharon Sweet, 61, Penn Yan, New York