By Sherri Coner
Southsider Voice correspondent
As a loving and loyal wife, Terri Thorpe stayed at home for 10 years to care for her ailing husband. When Leonard Thorpe died in August 2013, his wife of 22 years went back to work as a home health aide.
Believing that she would be alone for the rest of her life, Thorpe, 58, tried to fill the empty moments by spending a lot of time with her family and lifelong friends.
But in May 2014, fate sent Thorpe a new love.
This unexpected love, a widower named Al Stanley, resided in Kokomo.
A few months later, life took yet another new turn. Stanley moved to Greenwood so there weren’t so many miles between them.
Not only did Thorpe and Stanley fall in love, they also took a new chance at employment. Stanley stopped looking for a plumbing job in Greenwood, and Thorpe quit her job in home health care.
Instead, the couple started working the same shift as customer care agents at Indianapolis International Airport. They answer questions, help travelers on and off airplanes and push customers in wheelchairs to the baggage claim area and then to vehicles outside, where family members are waiting.
Going into work from 4:30 p.m. until long after midnight can be challenging. Walking 7 to 8 miles during a shift can also be tiring.
But every evening these lovebirds meet for dinner.
They like the fact that no two days are alike.
Thorpe absolutely never meets a stranger. But she also has an odd knack for finding celebrities in the crowd.
Stanley does not have quite the eye for spotting famous people, but when he does, he nicely explains that his fiancee is something of a celebrity stalker and that that individual can’t possibly leave the airport without meeting her.
On Facebook, Thorpe posts an album filled with the celebrities she has happily run across during her two years of employment at the airport.
Last May, Thorpe posed with Al Unser Sr. and Tony Kanaan before they made their way from the airport to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
She has photographs of a few Pacers and Josh Kaufman, last year’s winner of “The Voice,” as well as Jonathon Banks, a popular actor.
Another photograph features Thorpe smiling beside Joyce Dewitt, who played Janet on “Three’s Company.”
“I’m a people watcher anyway,” Thorpe said. “But now I look really close at every face, especially really tall guys. Then Al teases me and says, ‘Terri, not every guy over 6-3 is a famous basketball player.’ ”
A few weeks ago when Indianapolis was paralyzed by an icy storm, Thorpe found herself stranded at work without Stanley, who was recuperating at home after knee surgery.
“No one could get anywhere,” Thorpe said. “Flights were all cancelled. The airport furnishes mats for travelers to use in these situations, and people were sleeping everywhere. It was like a zombie apocalypse.”
Always the kind of person who finds the fun in any situation, Thorpe was exhausted but enjoyed laughing with co-workers who were also stranded.
“It was like a big slumber party,” she said with a laugh.
Quiet Stanley does a lot of smiling from a distance as his social butterfly chats with every person in her path.
In fact, the best part of his job is the woman he frequently sees during each shift.
“I just love being with Terri,” Stanley said. “I get to see her all the time.”