Walter Smith-Randolph said he was interested in LeAnne Armstead from the moment he met her at a 2005 barbecue hosted by Villanova University’s Black Cultural Society.
But it took a long, long, long time for anything to come of it.
“I was a friend for 12 years,” he said.
The two became friends, a little closer than acquaintances, Mrs. Armstead said, but not best friends either. They regularly interacted with people in their social circle, and they had classes together. Mr. Smith-Randolph, 34, had a car when he was in school and recalled picking up Mrs. Armstead, 35, from her family home in Brooklyn as he drove back to college from his own family home in Queens Village, Queens. (“She says it only happened twice,” he said.)
However, he never made a move.
“She was beautiful, tall, beautiful, and I didn’t think she was in my class,” he said.
After they both graduated – she in 2008, he in 2009 – they continued to see each other sporadically. When Mr. Smith-Randolph, who earned a master’s degree in journalism from the City University of New York, later moved to Elmira, NY, for his first broadcasting job, Mrs. Armstead and another friend visited him there.
The two also often met with other people in New York for “gamewatches,” which are essentially casual alumni reunions on the occasion of Villanova basketball games.
Ms. Armstead said that in November 2017, when Mr. Smith-Randolph traveled to New York for a family event from Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he then worked, for a family event.
They made plans to meet in Mist Harlem, which was then a bar, restaurant and event space. She was there with a group of friends, but the two made it a quasi-solo evening.
“My friends asked me, ‘How come you’re not dating him?'” said Mrs. Armstead. She replied, “He’s a catch, but I don’t want to ruin a friendship.”
The evening did make her think. She texted Mr. Smith-Randolph, who flew back to Michigan right after they met later that evening to make sure he got home safely. She made it clear to him in her mind that she was thinking of him more than casually.
Mr. Smith-Randolph recalls a little less subtlety over the course of the evening.
“When we started talking one-on-one, she grabbed my thigh,” said Mr. Smith-Randolph, who is now a research editor at Connecticut Public Broadcasting in Hartford. “I was like, oh wow, this is something.”
The two started texting every day, “about the smallest things,” said Ms. Armstead, now an e-commerce marketing manager at the Kroger Company, a grocer and retailer. When Mr. Smith-Randolph returned to New York the following month, both expected their relationship to evolve.
They had brunch together the day before New Year’s Eve and Mrs. Armstead said, “We were a little flirty, a little touching hands.”
When they went back to her apartment, she recalls, “He said, You know, you’re going to be my wife.”
But first she became his girlfriend. On December 31, 2017, Ms. Armstead said, “He asked me to be his girlfriend. And then we had our first kiss.” They dated for over two years before getting engaged in May 2020.
The couple, who will both use the last name Randolph and now in New Haven, Conn. married on November 6 at St. Thomas of Villanova Roman Catholic Church on their alma mater campus. Reverend Peter M. Donohue, the university’s president, performed the ceremony in front of 160 guests, all of whom were vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Speaking of the longtime friend who became his wife, Mr Smith-Randolph said: “She is one of my biggest supporters, she holds me accountable and she is loyal. Even if you mess up, she won’t let you down or let you down. She will help you through it. And she is beautiful.”