CLEARWATER — Twice, Sid Klein found true love.
Twice, cancer stole it from him.
But love wasn't done with him just yet.
In two weeks, Klein will retire after nearly 30 years as Clearwater's top cop. He plans to move to his dream home, newly built in the Panhandle.
By his side will be his third wife, Kelly.
Their love, it seems, was destined to be.
• • •
Klein met his first wife, Barbara, in 1967 at a disco near Miami where he was working an off-duty job for the Dade County Public Safety Department. The two lived in Florida and Colorado before Klein was hired as Clearwater's police chief in 1981.
They bought a house in Palm Harbor and about a year later, new neighbors Pierre and Kelly deLesec moved in next door.
Kelly deLesec and Barbara Klein soon became friends. They shared morning walks and recipes and craft ideas.
Despite the women's closeness, Kelly and Sid Klein hardly knew each other.
"We probably exchanged 10 words in 10 years. Sid was always at work when (Barbara and I) were together," said Kelly, 49.
When Barbara found a lump in her breast, Kelly brought dinner to her neighbors on the day of Barbara's biopsy.
"I remember Barbara telling me afterwards that Sid said it was the best quiche he'd ever had in his life," Kelly said.
Though the lump was benign, Barbara would later be diagnosed with breast cancer. She died at home in January 1996 at the age of 48, after 28 years of marriage.
• • •
It was Klein's daughter, Jennifer, who introduced him to his second wife, the former Lois Maroon. At the time, Maroon was Jennifer's boss at Clearwater's Countryside Library branch.
"When my mom was ill and getting toward the end, she had told me to make sure that he got married again, that he find somebody to love and make sure he's happy," said Jennifer Bruty, 35.
In 1999, Klein proposed to Lois on his live television call-in show, BlueLine CPD.
They were married for six years before Lois, too, succumbed to her battle with breast cancer in February 2005.
Kelly and Pierre had moved out of Klein's neighborhood in 1991. Other than a chance meeting in a Publix in 1999, Sid and Kelly hadn't seen each other in years. But their lives would cross again.
Lois had been a patient at the OB-GYN practice where Kelly worked. When Lois died, Kelly and Pierre went to her funeral.
Unknown to Klein, Pierre deLesec, too, was battling cancer at the same time. He died of lymphoma in March 2005, just six weeks after Lois' passing.
But before he died, he asked Kelly to do him a favor.
"Pierre said, 'You should make Sid a quiche one of these days,' " Kelly recalled.
• • •
Kelly knew she needed to make good on her promise to Pierre. About six weeks after his death, she called Sid and asked if she could bring him dinner.
"Only on condition you stay and share it with me," Sid Klein replied.
The two talked for hours over Kelly's spinach-and-bacon quiche and a bottle of Chardonnay.
From there, Sid Klein said, "It just clicked."
"It was amazing how much we had in common," Kelly said. "Not just our experiences losing our spouses, but we liked the same music, the same food … It felt like soulmates."
Was Kelly's famous quiche as good as Sid has once remarked?
"I don't remember what I was eating," he said. "I was not concentrating on the food."
Two years later, Klein proposed atop a glacier during a vacation to Alaska.
"I gave her some ice on the ice," joked Klein, 68.
The former Kelly deLesec and Sid Klein were married two months later aboard a cruise ship in Grand Cayman.
"It's wonderful because I can see in his eyes and in his laugh how happy he is, how excited he is for the future," said Bruty, Klein's daughter. "Kelly just fits in wonderfully with our family. She really fills the hole that was left by Lois and my mom."
• • •
The couple said they love a variety of music (It was Kelly's family that introduced Sid to karaoke, one of his many hobbies). They know how to cut a rug ("We're really good reggae dancers," Kelly said). And they're both foodies ("We plan on, everyday, going through and picking out a new recipe," she said.)
Kelly Klein will retire from her job as an office manager at Countryside OB-GYN two days before her husband's last day as police chief so she can enjoy his retirement celebrations.
They plan on moving to their new Panhandle home.
They'll live on the property that Klein had picked out with his first wife, Barbara.
They'll spend days on the water in the boat Klein had named Lady Lo, after his second wife.
And they'll live in the home they designed and decorated together.
"We're not quietly fading into the sunset. We're rushing into it," Sid Klein said. "Kelly and I have so much ahead of us, a whole new life."
Rita Farlow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (727) 445-4157.