Stephen Klein recalled answering his phone on May 27, 2002, and being told that his mother was taken to a hospital near her home in Cocoa Beach, Fla.
“It was tough to deal with, and so I went to the place where I would go when I needed to clear my head: Central Park,” said Mr. Klein, 74, who retired as the owner of Choice Associates, a staffing company in Manhattan.
“Central Park has always been a place for me to go and read and think or sometimes listen to music,” he said. “Somewhere along the way, it sort of became a safe haven for me.”
Mr. Klein was about to enter the park later that day at 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue, when he noticed a blonde woman with a beautiful face.
“At least for a moment or two, I was distracted enough so that my mother’s health wasn’t the only thing on my mind,” Mr. Klein said.
When the woman walking in front of him sat down on a bench, so too did Mr. Klein. Admittedly nervous, he sat next to her, thinking of something to say, and it came to him when he noticed that she appeared to begin marking papers with a pen.
“Are you a teacher?” he asked.
“Yes, I am,” said the woman in a thick, French accent, which Mr. Klein said, “completely mesmerized me.”
They made small talk for a few minutes and Mr. Klein, who had not yet learned her name, mustered the courage to ask: “Would you like to go for a walk and chitchat for a bit?”
Without hesitation, she replied: “No thank you.”
Mr. Klein retreated to his seat on the bench and began making a series of business calls.
The woman also returned to the bench to continue grading papers, but unbeknown to Mr. Klein, she was testing him as well, eavesdropping on his calls to determine, “just what kind of man he was, and how he made his living,” as she put it.
Ten minutes later, she got up from her seat, waited for Mr. Klein to finish a call and simply said to him, “OK.”
Mr. Klein, a bit stunned, politely responded, “OK what?”
“OK, I’ll take that walk with you now.”
They walked and talked long enough for Mr. Klein to learn that the woman’s name was Anne Santos, and that she was born and raised in Paris, and graduated from the Sorbonne University there.
Ms. Santos, 59, told Mr. Klein that she was a divorced mother with two daughters, and that she taught French at Lycée Français, a private bilingual school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Mr. Klein told Ms. Santos that he was also divorced with two daughters, and living alone in Manhattan. He noted that he had grown up in Brooklyn and graduated from City College before cofounding the staffing business.
“From what I had heard over the phone, I first thought Stephen was a lawyer,” Ms. Santos said. “At the time, I was in a very stressful situation with my ex-husband, and Stephen was very comforting when it came to listening to my problems and offering advice.”
They began dating, and Ms. Santos was soon traveling to Florida to meet Mr. Klein’s mother, who died three months after she was hospitalized. He eventually traveled with Ms. Santos to Paris to visit her father.
They were engaged in Marbella, Spain, in 2014, but marriage, which seemed imminent, did not materialize in the ensuing years.
“All I can say is that there were a lot of things going on in my life,” Mr. Klein said. “But I knew I would eventually marry her one day.”
Ms. Santos knew that date was close when Mr. Klein proposed again in 2018, this time in Bormes-les-Mimosas in Provence, France.
The couple married June 26 at Tappan Hill Mansion in Tarrytown, N.Y., before 75 guests. William J. Corbett Sr., a retired associate village justice for Floral Park, N.Y., officiated. They had planned to wed in Bormes-les-Mimosas in June 2020, but the coronavirus forced them to wait a year.
“The days go fast, and the calendar waits for no one,” the groom said. “Our marriage was long overdue.”