Many sleepaway camp loyalists maintain that the camp experience continues to provide benefits throughout life, and for Lisa Jane Hart and Kenneth Neil Steuer, one of those was a later-in-life romance.
The two met in August 1973 at Farm Camp Lowy in Windsor, N.Y., a small camp that drew mostly children from New York and New Jersey, whose parents appreciated that the place hosted no color wars. Ms. Hart was 13 and Mr. Steuer 15. He had a secret crush on her. She had a crush on someone else in his bunkhouse.
But she did memorialize him in her diary, albeit with reserve rather than passion. “Camp was good,” she wrote. “Met Kenny Steuer. He’s a good kid. He writes well for a boy.”
The two corresponded for a while after camp, he from New York’s Upper West Side and she from Tenafly, N.J. Inevitably, they fell out of touch.
Nearly 40 years later, courtesy of a Facebook page set up by Farm Camp Lowy’s alumni, the two reconnected when Mr. Steuer, in 2011, posted a fond memory of camp: The night they had a coed sleepover and he secured a spot for his sleeping bag next to Ms. Hart’s. He also suggested in the post that he might still have a crush on her.
Ms. Hart, who had never married, is now 62 and a leadership, career and transitions coach in New York. She saw the post around New Year’s Eve and sent Mr. Steuer a message that said, simply, “Hello.”
It was enough. Mr. Steuer, now 64 and an investment consultant in New York, responded.
But life matters interfered for both of them. He had health issues and his marriage was coming to an end. She was dealing with a death in the family. They started talking on the phone in February 2012, but didn’t actually meet until May, when they went to Zabar’s and then had a blanket picnic in Central Park.
“I didn’t think of it as a date, but when I left, I was like, we have a really good connection,” said Ms. Hart, who graduated from Boston University and received a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
A few weeks later, Ms. Hart’s younger sister, who lived in San Rafael, Calif., was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and Ms. Hart spent the next year flying between the coasts, balancing a new relationship and impending death. Her sister, Alison Hart Schlosser, died in May 2013.
Mr. Steuer’s life also was in upheaval. He moved out of his family home, in Plainview, N.Y., in September 2012, eventually finalizing his divorce two years later.
The two found solace in each other, but also felt restricted.
“Lisa was always very, very clear,” Mr. Steuer said. “She was not the person that was going to date a married man. That was not her. She was not a home wrecker.”
But it wasn’t only rules that guided her. “I remember thinking, I think I’m falling in love with this guy,” Ms. Hart said.
They persevered and eventually their relationship blossomed.
In 2017, a few years after her sister died, Ms. Hart also lost her mother. But not before she introduced Mr. Steuer, telling her, “That’s the guy I’m going to marry.”
One night, in 2020, eschewing a formal engagement, they agreed that they probably ought to make it legal.
“The thing that grounds our relationship is this friendship,” Ms. Hart said, explaining why a proposal was unnecessary. “We really like each other.”
On Nov. 12, at Smith Farm Gardens, an events space in East Haddam, Conn., they were married before 33 guests. Adam Feder, a friend of the couple who is a Universal Life minister, officiated.
A friend asked why, having been together so long, the two felt it necessary to marry. Ms. Hart said her husband-to-be responded, “We’re just kind of old-fashioned that way. We want to be witnessed and become each other’s family.”
The first-time bride also had a bit of wisdom to impart. “I never had an agenda about getting married,” she said “I just really understood what it takes to make a relationship work. You have to be super intentional about it. It’s not the movies. You have to decide who you want to do hard with, and I felt like Ken and I could do hard together.”
The groom has a more philosophical view.
“The river of life somehow brought me close to her again,” he said. “And this is a wonder of the universe.”