Love Story: 41 Years Ago, Couple Told 'You Were Meant For Each Other’
By M.A.C. Lynch
Mar 04, 2018 at 6:00 AM
Kathy Klein, Bob Sanders and John Kuckens were three musketeers discovering the Big Apple after college, when Bob crossed the wires in their relationship.
Bob and Kathy grew up next door to each other in Lake Forest, Ill., and became best friends, as close as brother and sister. Bob and John, who grew up in East Rockaway, N.Y., on Long Island, were roommates at Miami University in Ohio and became close friends also.
When Kathy was a freshman at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in 1971, she met John when he and Bob visited the area. Four years later, Bob and John shared an apartment in New York City, where Kathy was starting a master’s degree in Egyptian hieroglyphics at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.
Embarking on their careers, the carefree trio went to concerts, explored the city and cooked dinners together. After one of their shared meals, Bob leaned forward and told John everything he knew about Kathy from their childhood and told Kathy everything he knew about John. He ended his tale with a pronouncement: “I’ve always thought you two were meant for each other,” at which point “he left,” Kathy says, “and we were sitting there,” silent, awkward, stunned.
“I was never considering John as a romantic interest,” Kathy says. He had started working the previous year in operations at the ABC network and “he seemed older. He was wise and calm.” Soon after Bob’s dramatic exit, howver, John invited Kathy to dinner. She lived in an apartment with her parents’ friends, who were thrilled to meet John. He began talking about the suit he was wearing, which he had bought that day.
“What a guy! He doesn’t have any airs,” Kathy’s older friends said.
“He was handsome,” Kathy says, and “we both liked words and reading, poems and puns.”
“I liked Kathy right away. She was full of energy,” John says.
They had their first kiss that night.
Kathy’s family was living in California at the time, but “my Dad would fly out [for work], buy me a new dress, take me to the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center, and we would dance — the best date I ever had.” On one of those visits, after Kathy had been dating John for a year, her father wanted her to get reacquainted with Will, the son of another family friend. “I told John all the things I was doing with” Will, but “I was hoping things would develop with John.”
Hearing of their outings, “I got to thinking that I better make a commitment,” John says. In mid-October, he took Kathy to the Oak Room in the Plaza Hotel to propose, but “I never made my appeal.” On Nov. 9, he borrowed his parents’ car, took Kathy for a ride away from city and popped the question.
Shortly after, while looking for a wedding venue in the city, Kathy and her parents ventured up to the newly renovated Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center. Anxious for new bookings, the developers offered them a good package. “It was unbelievable to go up to the top,” Kathy says.
Bob stood as her “Knight of Honor,” in lieu of a maid of honor, when she and John were married in Windows on the World on Feb. 12, 1977.
The newlyweds had reserved an inexpensive room at the Plaza for that night, but when they arrived the management claimed there had been an error and moved them to the Plaza Suite, which they attributed to their dads’ scheming.
Kathy had run out of money for her master’s program and started working at Equitable insurance, where she rose to account executive. The newlyweds moved to Long Island in 1978 and commuted to their jobs in Manhattan until 1983, when they moved to Bridgeport for a job transfer for Kathy. They had their first son, Johnny, a year later, and moved back to Long Island in 1987, at which point, Kathy says, “I just wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom.”
In 1990, they had another son, Josh, and in 1993, John took a buyout package from ABC and worked in operations for CBS before ESPN asked him to join their team in Bristol. The young family headed back to Connecticut and bought a house in West Hartford that their Realtor did not want to show them. “It was derelict,” Kathy says, but “the bones of the house were so good,” and having already renovated two houses, they moved in.
Those strong bones were needed when the house was full of high school boys and Kathy and John were serving 6-10 pounds of bacon, five dozen eggs, plus chili for swim team breakfasts before rival meets. “We were always going to a game” when they were young, says Kathy, who also began making costumes for Hall High School’s annual Pops ’n Jazz concerts in town, a job she still does today.
Kathy went back to her alma mater to earn her master’s degree in education in 1998 and began working for a nonprofit doing brain research on acquiring speech, language and reading skills. Kathy was sent into struggling schools around the state to apply the researchers’ findings. From there, she went onto two other nonprofits to serve young, at-risk students.
With their sons now in Brooklyn and Vermont, Kathy and John enjoy kayaking, going to the beach, and their new hobby as “amateur birders.” They recently spotted snowy owls, a rare sight in Connecticut. John switched careers and became a paralegal in 2012 after rounds of ESPN layoffs.
For their 10th anniversary, Kathy and John returned to Windows on the World for lunch, but when Kathy watched the building collapse on Sept. 11, 2001, “It was so horrible, it wasn’t for hours that I thought about being married there,” she says. Having adapted to myriad addresses, work and parenting demands over the years, Kathy and John found a new restaurant overlooking a cityscape for their 40th anniversary last year and celebrated on top of the Hartford Steam Boiler building at On20 restaurant.