Eight years ago, Darlene Logsdon and Michael Portnoy were complete strangers, sitting in a support group, grieving over the loss of their spouses.
Each was struggling to deal with the pain of being widowed at such a young age while trying to figure out how to go on living.
But the tragedy that shook their lives ultimately led them to one another, and the Toledo couple is getting married today before about 100 people at Cousino's Courtyard at the Navy at the Docks restaurant complex in International Park.
"I believe God makes the best of a bad situation," Ms. Logsdon said. "Mike and I both had bad situations, but He leads you to find the right person at the right time."
Ms. Logsdon's late husband, Gary, died in 1995 while waiting for a kidney and heart transplant. Mr. Portnoy lost his wife, Vivian, to breast cancer in 1997, leaving him to raise their then-3-year-old daughter, Alyssa.
Mr. Portnoy began taking Alyssa to a children's support group at Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Perrysburg Township about four months after his wife's death, then started attending the adult sessions for those who have lost a spouse - which were held at the same time as Alyssa's sessions.
Ms. Logsdon started going to the support group in the same year.
The couple cited luck as the reason why they both ended up there together.
"We were lucky," Mr. Portnoy said. "Very thankfully, we met each other."
He said family and friends were unsure how to help them deal with their losses: "They see you, and it's like a bad aura is around you; you're a widow or widower. You're like a boat out in the sea somewhere. People just don't know what to do."
In the support group, however, the couple said they felt like they belonged.
"You can be comfortable with sobbing if you have to," Mr. Portnoy said.
After about a year in the group, some members became close and began socializing outside of the group - going to dinner or to one another's houses together.
"We felt real comfortable sharing our sorrows," Ms. Logsdon said. "But let's do something fun, let's do something a little more positive."
Ms. Logsdon and Mr. Portnoy began dating in 1998 and were engaged last year.
Alyssa, who will be a seventh grader at Timberstone Junior High in Sylvania Township this fall, is thrilled to be getting a new mother.
"Thank God," the 12-year-old said. "Dad doesn't fill the mother type. I like having an actual mother now."
Ms. Logsdon, who never had children, said she's very fortunate to have Alyssa in her life.
"Now to have Alyssa is really great," she said. "Having the opportunity to raise a child is really awesome."
Nearly a decade ago, Ms. Logsdon and Mr. Portnoy were grieving separately, and today they are celebrating together.
"Eight to nine years ago, we were all sad and at a very hard place," Ms. Logsdon said, "and now we are all happy again."
Contact Laren Weber at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.