Ferle Cantor and Stanley Garland join hands today to celebrate their precious gift: a second chance at first love.
College sweethearts a half-century ago, they're getting married this afternoon at a Pikesville synagogue. In the autumn of their lives -- Mrs. Cantor is 70, Mr. Garland 73 -- they step into this union, or reunion, as sprightly as spring.
"It's so wonderful when two old friends -- both terrific people -- can get together like this," says Alberta Hyman, 69, a longtime friend who introduced the two when they were students at the University of Maryland 52 years ago. "It just gives you a lift. Every time I think about it, I smile."
Their marriage is all the more remarkable because Mrs. Cantor and Mr. Garland had no contact -- not a word, not a letter, not even a scrap of gossip about one another -- for 50 years as she flourished in Owings Mills and he roared through life in Roland Park.
They were reunited only after a friend, Bob Hyman, uttered these words at a luncheon in 1992: "Stanley, I see your old girlfriend walking her dog in the neighborhood." Mr. Hyman, coincidentally, is the husband of Alberta Hyman, the initial matchmaker.
By then Mrs. Cantor's husband had died; she lived alone in a condominium off Greenspring Avenue in Northwest Baltimore. And Mr. Garland's wife had been ill for several years. After her death in February 1994, the two old sweethearts started seeing each other again.
"It was love at first sight -- or second sight, I guess," says Mr. Garland.
Out of respect for Mrs. Garland -- the former Josephine Wtulich, a distinguished author and sociologist at the College of Notre Dame -- they waited a year to get married. They might have waited longer except, as Mr. Garland says: "At 73, the months are equal to years. You wake up every day; you look older, you feel older."
Mrs. Cantor sums up: "We're not teen-agers anymore."
You'd never know it. Mr. Garland owns a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, the largest model the company makes. He drives it. And he persuaded his fiancee to ride on it.
Mrs. Cantor's three children can't believe it.
Mark Cantor, a 42-year-old lawyer in Baltimore, owned motorcycles twice. The first time, he kept it secret because he knew his mother would erupt. The second time, she erupted.
He echoes his sisters' comments about their mother's second wedding: "We are thrilled."
"They're just perfect with each other," gushes Saundra Rothstein-Newman, 47, also a Baltimore lawyer. "The things we find nutty about my mother, Stanley loves."
And Lois Turner, 45, a social worker at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital who works with older patients, says: "Being loved, and being in love, is a treasure. It revitalizes you. It gives you back your youth -- and spontaneity and romance and excitement."
The sparks go back 52 years, when the two dated for a year at the University of Maryland. Mr. Garland was in the Army, finishing dental school. After graduating in 1943 the Army sent him to Texas, where he taught female dental students.
Mrs. Cantor, attractive and carefree, quickly found new suitors on her doorstep.
And Mr. Garland got distracted. "I had the best job in the Army," Mr. Garland says. "I was a dentist but didn't see any teeth. With 200 girls on my hands, I forgot the girl back home."
As it turned out Mr. Garland saw no battlefield action in World War II.
He returned to Baltimore, opened a dental practice, got married, traveled the world skiing, sailed, learned to ride motorcycles and drove Jaguars.
Mrs. Cantor married one of her suitors, Herbert Cantor, who eventually owned two factories that manufactured men's clothes. They settled in Owings Mills, where Mrs. Cantor reared a family, cultivated many friends, joined lots of clubs and, about the time her husband died 11 years ago, started selling real estate.
She was happy. And even as a widow living in a condominium, she continued marching merrily through the full and diverse landscape that was her life.
Enter the motorcycle.
Mrs. Cantor was walking her dog when a motorcycle roared by. It came back. She was uneasy. "What kind of nut is this?" she thought.
She recalls that the big machine drove off, and that the long-lost Mr. Garland phoned her later. He recalls that he pulled the bike over, and that they chatted briefly at the curb.
Either way, Mrs. Cantor, after seeing Mrs. Garland's obituary months later, bought a sympathy card. She almost didn't mail it. She knew Mr. Garland had no family and might want to talk with someone. But also, she says, she didn't want to seem forward.
Enter her gregarious daughter, Ms. Rothstein-Newman.
At lunch one day Mrs. Cantor showed her the card and note she'd written. "I read the card and I got up from the table and I ran to the mailbox," Ms. Rothstein-Newman says. "I knew my mother was interested in him."
Mr. Garland phoned not long after that. "We saw each other every day from then on," he says. "How can you imagine something like that?
"After my wife died I didn't look forward to anything. Now I say I'm lucky every day."
And today they're to get married at Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Pikesville.
And tonight they celebrate with friends and family at the Belvedere downtown.
After that, they're not sure. They don't have a lot of plans, other than approaching life the only way old sweethearts can when they get a second chance: one glorious day at a time.