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Dad gives daughter nudge to path of love

Kathryn Axelrod and David Goldberg were introduced through

Kathryn Axelrod and David Goldberg were introduced through a series of events started by Kathryn's dying father. (Jan 9, 2013) Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Love will find a way.

Sometimes it's a direct hit, but once in a while love finds its way into certain hearts through circuitous circumstances.

Such was the case for Kathryn "Katie" Axelrod, formerly of Roslyn, who recently returned from her honeymoon in South Africa and Zimbabwe with her husband, David Goldberg. Though several people had a hand in their meeting, the spark was her father, Long Island labor-law attorney Michael Axelrod.

On Sept. 4, 2010, Axelrod was visiting her father at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. By then, her father, a partner at Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman Llp in East Meadow who had been diagnosed with lung cancer the year before, "was pretty well into the disease," she said. It was a Saturday night, and Axelrod was waffling between staying by his bedside or, as promised, attending friend Jennifer Morgenstern's engagement party. Reluctantly, but at his urging, she got ready for the party in his room. "He told me: 'You look beautiful. I want you to go out and have a good time,' " Axelrod, 29, recalled. "He knew she was a great girl and that I should go and support her."

But there was more to it than that. "His philosophy was never turn down a date. Always go; you never know what you're going to get out of it."

Little did he know that by pushing his daughter to attend the festivities, he was also steering her toward her future husband.


Connections, coincidences

At the party, Axelrod struck up a conversation with guests Stephanie and Andrew Epstein. As it turned out, Andrew Epstein is an oncologist affiliated with Sloan-Kettering, and he helped take care of Michael Axelrod. Doctors there said he stood out among other patients because he always sported bright orange shoes -- his trademark happy color, his daughter said.

The next day, as Axelrod told her father all about the engagement party and the strange coincidence of meeting one of his doctors there, the Epsteins were guests at a circumcision ceremony. Several mutual friends of Axelrod were in attendance as well. A group conversation led to one guest declaring that her brother was recently single after the breakup of a long-term relationship, and she asked whether anyone knew of a nice girl to set him up with.

Stephanie Epstein's ears perked up. Not only did she know Goldberg, 33, a doctor and the available guy in question, but she instantly recalled the lovely young woman she'd met just the night before.

"At first I was reluctant" to be set up, said Goldberg, a liver specialist. Axelrod, too, was hesitant, because she'd been on numerous blind dates, none of which had worked out.

Still, they embarked on an email exchange that lasted about five weeks and culminated with a first face-to-face date on Oct. 22.

"We had drinks at Gottino, a wine bar in the West Village," Goldberg recalled, followed by Ping-Pong at the jazz club Fat Cat. "We had an instant connection."

And the budding romance was parent-approved.

"My dad was so excited!" Axelrod said, adding that her mom, Jane, was equally pleased about the potential match. But that joy was tempered by Michael Axelrod's rapidly declining health.


Meeting dad

By New Year's, Michael Axelrod was at home receiving hospice care. At that point, the young couple had only been dating for about two months. It was much too early to think about marriage; however, the circumstances dictated what happened next.

"I knew Katie was someone special . . . I felt differently about her than anyone else," Goldberg said. So although it was early in their courtship, a gut feeling told him he ought to see her father, at least once.

"We had talked about my meeting him," Goldberg said, "and we knew we had to accelerate that aspect. So on New Year's Day [2011], I went to Katie's mom's house on Long Island to meet her mom and dad."

There, he had a personal moment with Michael Axelrod, who died six days later at the age of 63 after battling cancer for two years.

"Meeting one's father is anxiety producing" in and of itself, Axelrod said, "let alone when they're in hospice . . . So it was a very special and defining moment in my relationship with David. This really showed his true character, his compassion, how he was raised."

The couple wed on Dec. 15, 2012, at Tribeca 360 in Soho. In the bride's bouquet was a picture of her father, the man who had taught her to never miss an opportunity.

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