COLUMBIA, 12/29/11 (Beat Byte) -- "What if?" The New York Times story begins. "What if Tom Prost had told Kathy Mabry how he really felt about her when they were students at the University of Missouri and worked together at a pizza parlor in Columbia, Mo., more than three decades ago?
"What if he had said that he loved everything about her, from her voice to the way she made him feel?
"And what if Ms. Mabry, raised by a single mother in a small Missouri town, had not concluded that Mr. Prost was too good for her, his family too stable and suburban. What if she had told him that she thought he was adorable, kind and funny? “Our backgrounds were so different,” Ms. Mabry said. “I felt like Tom was a little bit out of my league.”
Telling a love story as only The New York Times can on its Weddings and Vows pages, the December 2 tale of 1977 and 1979 Mizzou grads Kathy Mabry and Tom Prost, respectively, has been making the rounds on Facebook, women swooning and guys sighing over its tender retelling of a love thought long-lost, now found, the most special gift of all.
Recalling his student days, "Mr. Prost learned Ms. Mabry's class schedule so he could pretend to encounter her by chance," reporter Mary Reinhart explains. “We just really clicked,” he said. “I felt like she was someone I had known all my life.”
But neither student was grown up enough to admit such deep and abiding feelings, so they drifted apart, as young loves often do. She went off to a newspaper advertising job in Albuquerque. He returned to a St. Louis telecommunications job.
Over the years they stayed in touch, but both got married to other people. Then, in an odd coincidence that might have indicated what lie in their stars, she got divorced in 1997 and he divorced in 1999 -- both exactly twenty years after their respective Mizzou graduations.
“I dated off and on,” said Mr. Prost, now 55, “but I still thought about Kathy," Reinhart writes. Some 1,500 miles away, she was thinking of him. “I never, ever forgot about him,” said Ms. Mabry, now 57.
Enter the gift of reconnecting, via Facebook and social media. And hearing a voice again after all these years. Tom said that the moment he heard Kathy's voice, "the lilting, slightly breathy singer’s vibrato, he was transported back to the pizza parlor."
And the first meeting. "We were standing there in the airport, holding each other," Mr. Prost said. "We were trembling."
READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE (and grab a hankie!)