Denise Praz and Joseph Mazur were married in Naples on Dec. 15, three months after Irma smashed into their independent living facility in Collier County.
“If it hadn’t been for Irma, I don’t know if we’d be getting married,” Mazur told The Naples Daily News. “Irma created this situation for romance.”
Before Irma made landfall on Sept. 10, Praz, Mazur and about 400 fellow residents of Bentley Village were evacuated to Orlando, USA Today reported.
Praz and Mazur, both 79 and widowed, knew one another only casually before the storm. But as they hunkered down in an Orlando hotel, the couple joined a group for happy hour and got to know each other.
Over the next few weeks, they talked, they swam together, exercised together, took walks, went to Sunday Mass.
“We had a lot of personal time and realized we had a lot in common,” Mazur said. “It developed rather quickly. We are very comfortable. It feels very natural to be together.”
Praz agreed, saying: “I’m just always happy to see him. He’s very protective of me, which I like.”
Mazur, a 17-year resident of Naples, was previously married 53 years before his wife died in 2015. Praz was married for 57 years before her husband died in June, USA Today reported.
“I remember praying that the Lord would send me another good man, who was faithful in his life of the Lord and who wanted to marry again,” Praz said.
They have seven children between them, all in their 50s. There was a little grousing among the offspring over the speed with which their parents planned to marry.
“My daughter said, ‘I like him very much, Mother, but you just buried Daddy,’” Praz said about her daughter, Marisa. “I said, ‘This is right. I’m going to do it.’”
And they did, exchanging vows at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in North Naples.
“God, in his great wisdom, used Hurricane Irma to bring them together,” said the Rev. Paul D’Angelo, who officiated.