A chance encounter between two strangers in a hospital emergency room. A love rekindled after nearly a lifetime apart. A perfect match made through an Internet dating website.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, we asked people to share their love stories — and how they met. Love truly does find people — even if it takes nearly a lifetime for some to recognize it.
Here, then, are a few of their stories.
A fateful phone call
Fifty years ago, Beth Walker met a charming, handsome man on her first day of teaching at an elementary school in Hackensack, N.J.
A fellow teacher, Dan Hyer, took Beth’s breath away in 1963, and the pair fell in love as the months progressed. In a year’s time, he’d placed a ring on her finger.
“Together we were so very happy,” Walker says now. “But our families objected.”
Beth was raised as Southern Baptist. Dan was Irish Catholic. They felt their future children would be caught in a family struggle.
The romance had to end.
“We had to love each other to say good-bye,” she said.
Beth went on to share an incredible 36-year marriage with Charles Walker, whom she said believed in living every day to the fullest.
When Charles fell terminally ill in 2005, he stayed true to spirit. On his deathbed, he gave his wife a piece of advice.
“I don’t want you to be alone for the rest of your life,” he told her. “When I’m gone, you should call Dan.”
Beth was floored. She called it an “extraordinary gift of love and closure.” After Charles’ death, she took his advice. All she knew is that he had lived in northern New Jersey, and nothing else.
What if he’d become a priest? Was he married? Is he fat and ugly now?
Beth went to a library to find a North Jersey phone book and, hopefully, Dan’s number. All she had to do was give a librarian Dan’s name, and she quickly looked him up and handed Beth a phone number.
Back home, Beth called before she lost her courage.
“I was raised in the generation where ladies don’t call gentlemen,” she said.
The man who answered didn’t recognize Beth when she gave her married name, but he couldn’t believe who it was when she used her maiden name.
“Is it really you?” Dan asked.
She asked him if he wanted to get lunch. She told him about Charles. He’d been married, too, but he’d been alone for 25 years.
When Dan knocked on her door a few weeks later, she opened it slowly. There he was — the smiling, handsome man she hadn’t seen in more than 30 years.
“Was this really happening?” she said. “He took me in his arms and kissed me hello. He told me I was the love of his life.”
The couple now lives in West Kendall after moving to Florida in 2007. They help care for a special needs grandson and continue to cherish their improbable union.
That day they reunited, they sat in her living room and caught up for three hours before going to lunch. As they left the restaurant, his hand slipped into hers.
And there it has remained.
An emergency room meeting
Bill Hein first noticed the pretty woman as he worked the midnight shift.
Off duty from his work as a Miami-Dade police officer, he worked night security at North Shore Medical Center in 1984. One night, he saw someone behind the receptionist’s desk. He tried to chat with the shy Angela Ortiz, but she wouldn’t say much.
“She just wouldn’t talk small talk,” he said.
The following week, he was telling his partner about his crush as they patrolled one afternoon and were called to a neighbors’ dispute. Two men were arguing outside their homes, and Bill and his partner separated them to assess the situation.
At one point, Bill’s guy picked up a 2x4 piece of wood and started waving it, signaling he wanted to go after the other man. Bill’s partner, a woman taller than six feet, thought he was in danger. She rushed over, tripped and toppled into Bill.
“It was like a linebacker taking out a quarterback,” he said.
Bill’s hand fell under his partner’s radio, and it swelled up quickly. After resolving the dispute with the neighbors, the two officers went to get his hand checked out at the hospital.
“She won’t be there” he thought. “She works at night ... ”
Except that Angela had been filling in for a sick coworker that night. She actually worked afternoons, and she was the one asking questions as she checked Bill in.
“For such a big guy, he was so soft-spoken,” she says now.
Bill’s hand turned out to be fine, and as he walked out to the car with his partner, he told her that she had been the receptionist he’d talked about.
Surprised Bill hadn’t asked her out, she offered to go ask for him.
“No no no,” he said. “ I’m going in.”
He sheepishly walked back into the ER, where Angela was surprised to see him back.
“Would you like to get some chow sometime,” he asked.
She said yes.
Not long after came dates, barbecues, flowers and notes left underneath her windshield wipers while she was at work.
“Hey Chica, Have a nice day!,” he’d write on a sheet ripped from his small notebook.
Families met and mingled. Irish and Colombian heritages mixed well.
“They thought he was so nice,” Angela said. “They liked that he went to church with me.”
By 1988 they were walking down the aisle, followed by a cross-country road trip honeymoon.
Bill, 58, and Angela, 50, now have two daughters and a grandson.
He is forever her chico and she his chica.
Nolan and Christina
Two single, sporty and outgoing thirtysomethings used to log on to Match.com every day in hopes finding their love.
It was summer 2009, and “fitnessgirl912” (Christina Warren, 37) and “tangawezi” (Nolan Farhy, 42) found each other on the Internet dating website. They soon shared their love of “bedtime stories, shower singing, fairy tales and snowflakes,” as Christina likes to put it.
Christina, a mobile application developer, was moving to Fort Lauderdale, and she’d created her first online dating profile. It didn’t take long to find Nolan, a banker who works in Kenya for one third of the year and lives in Miami Beach the remaining time.
“Since we could not meet in person, we talked on the phone and sent daily emails from S. Fla. to Africa for the first 7 weeks of our relationship,” Christina wrote in an email.
Their first date came after Nolan’s return in July 2009, when they shared a sunny day in South Beach, Indian food for dinner and good conversation while enjoying the view from his balcony.
“He presented me with various African trinkets that he had picked out for me during his trip,” she wrote. “We shared a sweet first kiss and I drove back to Fort Lauderdale.”
They fell for each other and dated for two years, until they decided it would be better to remain friends.
After nine months of friendship, the relationship grew and grew, Christina wrote. The flame rekindled, and on Jan. 1 this year, Nolan proposed to Christina while on a trip to Kenya.
“And they lived happily ever after,” Christina wrote.
Ana and Stan
Stan Rubin met the love of his life in high school.
The soccer player met Ana at North Miami Beach Senior High in 1973. In a classic teenage romance, their love took root during the summer months.
“As we were still very young, we waited six years to get married despite knowing that we were soul mates,” he wrote in an email.
Rubin became a banker, and their profession has taken them around the world — New York, Brussels, Singapore, Atlanta, Caracas and eventually back to Miami. They’ve enjoyed 35 years of marriage and have one son, Aaron.
“Through all the years and the moves, Ana and I remain soul mates and best friends,” he wrote.