THEY say love moves in mysterious ways – and these two are proof of that.
New Yorker Adele Geraghty and Sheffielder Phil Sidebottom met and married after she sent an email to the wrong address and it landed in his inbox.
When he wrote back to tell her she’d made the mistake the pair got talking online – and found they were soul mates.
Now, thanks to that one digit error – she wrote to firstname.lastname@example.org but it should have been author45 – they are married, living together in Nether Green and are preparing for their fifth wedding anniversary.
“It’s enough to make you believe in fate,” says Adele, aged 59. “When we tell people, they say it’s like something out of a movie.”
It was April 2001 when she decided to submit work to a publishing company advertised in her local newspaper, the Ellenville Press.
Unfortunately – or, perhaps, fortunately – the company’s email address had been printed wrongly and her missive went to 64-year-old Phil, thousands of miles away in Sheffield.
“He wrote back saying he was sorry to bother me but he’d received three emails like mine and he was worried someone might be using his address illegally,” says Adele, a mother of six and grandmother of five.
“He wanted to know where I’d got the address, so I looked into it and found it had been a misprint in the paper.
“I wrote back to explain and give him the editor’s contact details if he wanted to complain.”
Phil takes up the story: “I’d emailed all three of the people but Adele was the only one to get back to me, which I thought was very sweet.
“It was strange because I was checking my emails later that night when I noticed she was online. It was nearly midnight and I was about to go to bed but something made me think I should just send a note to say thanks.”
He did and the pair spent the next 20 minutes talking.
“At the end of the conversation I said to her she was up awfully late,” recalls Phil, a retired archeology lecturer. “She said it was only 7.45pm where she was – in New York.
“My reaction was ‘You’re a yank?’ And that made her laugh.”
They agreed to speak again if they ever happened to be online at the same time. And they were – the next day.
“I think I was hoping we would be,” says Phil, who was then looking for a new home after the breakdown of his marriage. “There was an instant connection.”
“We talked about everything,” says Adele. “The intimate and not so intimate. We sent pictures of each other, of our houses, our kids, where we worked.
“Within weeks we were talking for hours at a time. Phil worked at Sheffield University and he’d tell his colleagues at 5pm he was going home to have lunch with his American friend.
“We even decided to spend New Year’s Eve together online. We saw Phil’s in first over here, and then we kept talking for hours until it was New Year in New York too.”
Even minor disasters like Phil’s computer breaking down couldn’t stop them - “I rushed out and bought a new PC within a couple of hours,” says the father of two and grandfather of four.
Nor could Adele being confined to bed suffering spinal injuries.
“I got my son to wheel the computer in so I could talk from my bed,” she laughs.
They swapped numbers and talked on the phone before meeting in April 2002 – exactly one year after they met by email.
“I was so nervous,” says Adele. “I’d never been to the UK before. Phil came to meet me at Heathrow. The first thing he did was grab me and say: ‘You really are real’.”
They spent a fortnight together in Sheffield before Adele had to fly home but from then on the visits became more frequent.
“She’d come over and stay,” recalls Phil. “Eventually I said to her: ‘Why don’t you stay and marry me?’ It felt right.”
So she did.
There followed five months of visa problems when Adele was not allowed in the country at all and the pair had to meet in Paris.
But eventually, in 2005, she arrived for good.
“I loved England and Sheffield almost as much as Phil,” she says. “I almost feel more British than American. Here felt like home immediately.”
At first she lived separately at Athelstan Road, Handsworth, but they soon moved in together at Bramwith Road, Nether Green. And in January 2007 they married at Sheffield Town Hall
Now, they’re looking for a new house - “we need somewhere bigger for all the stepkids,” says Phil.
“It’s strange how things work out,” laughs Adele. “There’s not a day goes by I don’t thank that newspaper for getting that address wrong.”