When Valentine’s Day rolls around this weekend, Susan Vollhardt of Rockport will spend it with a gentleman friend of long acquaintance — although, up until two months ago, she hadn’t seen or talked with him for 43 years.

“My friends say these things happen when you don’t expect it. I sure didn’t expect that phone call that day,” said Vollhardt, who works in Rockland as a dental hygienist.

“That day” was a little before Christmas. Vollhardt’s daughter, who lives in Appleton, was preparing to host a family dinner and had made a rapid series of advice-seeking calls to her mother. So when the phone rang again, Vollhardt picked right up and addressed her daughter with affectionate exasperation. A startled man’s voice replied, “Is this Susan?” When she said yes, he told her who he was, questioning as he did whether she would remember him. She certainly did.

“My heart fluttered, after all these years,” she said.

Forty-three years ago, Vollhardt was a senior at St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, Conn. A new Catholic high school that was a bit of a showpiece for the diocese, St. Joseph was very strict. The girls, taught by the locally based School Sisters of Notre Dame, received instruction on the third floor while the boys were taught by a group of young Marist brothers, on temporary assignment from their monastery.

“Everything was separate,” Vollhardt said. “Even the yearbooks were separate. And those uniforms! We wore camel-colored blazers with brown plaid skirts, white blouses, knee socks and saddle shoes.”

The students had separate drama clubs too. But that senior year (Vollhardt’s class was the first to graduate from the new school), it was decided that the school should present a play and that all the students, boys and girls, could work on it together.

“The drama club was very popular that year,” Vollhardt said.

The play chosen was “The Man Who Came To Dinner,” a classic American comedy. Chosen to direct the play was a Brother John, who came from New York and had family members working in the theater there. Vollhardt auditioned and was cast as Maggie, the female lead. As rehearsals ensued, a connection was evident between the 17-year-old actress and her director, just five years older.

“It was completely innocent, but there was a lot of eye contact,” Vollhardt said. “Sister Lucy pulled me aside a couple of times and told me I was leading the young brother astray. ‘He’s very naïve, young lady!’ she’d say.”

Vollhardt was quick to add recently that there was nothing untoward in their connection. She said the brothers were good teachers, a fun and lively bunch that seemed to be a good match for their young charges. The nuns, well, were a bit older.

Soon the play, and the school year, was over. Brother John and his colleagues headed back to their monastery and Vollhardt headed out into the real world. She was married for a number of years and had two children; divorced 20 years ago, she and the children moved to Maine, initially because Camden was where her finger landed when she plunked it down on a map. A job opening, a reasonable rental and a good report on the school system clinched her decision and she never looked back.

Vollhardt eventually was able to buy a farm on Beech Hill, which she shares with a menagerie of animals. Her children graduated from Camden-Rockport High School and made their own lives. She never remarried, but had a longtime relationship that ended more than a year ago.

“And I said, that’s it! I have the animals, the kids are gone, my life is fine,” she said.

Then “Brother John” called. As they filled each other in on their lives, Vollhardt said they quickly fell into the kind of easy conversation they both remembered from their first acquaintance. The Society of Mary turned out not to be a permanent calling for John Maher, but teaching was. He left the order five or six years after his stint at St. Joseph and got married a few years after that. His wife died several years ago, after 30 years of marriage. The couple did not have children. At the end of June, he will retire from a long career in education in Long Island. Maher, who taught Spanish at St. Joseph, is the chairman of his school’s world language department.

“Over the years, I would think about him, whenever I heard something about New York,” said Vollhardt. “I’d wonder what became of him.”

It turned out Maher remembered her too. Last year, he decided to find out what had happened to her. When he told a friend he was thinking of hiring someone to look, the friend told him to just try Google.

“And in half an hour, he found me,” said Vollhardt, who doesn’t even own a computer and only recently got a cell phone.

After talking for a while, Maher made a suggestion, although he said he hoped it wasn’t being too forward. He had tickets to see “Turandot” in January at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Would Vollhardt join him? After some consideration, she said she would.

In the weeks that followed, Vollhardt and Maher spoke daily, sometimes a couple of times a day, on the phone. They also wrote letters and exchanged pictures. Then Maher had another suggestion. Since he had the Martin Luther King Day holiday off from school, maybe he could take the ferry from Long Island to Connecticut and drive to Maine for the weekend.

It was a whirlwind visit, as an impending storm meant Maher had to return a day early. But he got the grand tour of Vollhardt’s farm and met her daughter and son-in-law. He met all her animals too including her big horse Mike, currently being leased. And he bought her a tropical fish to replace a recently deceased one. They named it Flounder.

“Our lives are so different,” Vollhardt said. “He goes to Manhattan for plays and concerts, I live with goats and horses. He asked if he should bring a tie and I said I hadn’t seen a tie in 23 years.”

The following week, Vollhardt flew to New York City for four days, as planned. They went to the opera, “which was amazing,” she said. They had drinks at The Plaza and ate at The View, a revolving rooftop restaurant. They walked through Central Park. They even visited Tiffany’s, where Vollhardt let Maher give her a small gold key pendant. And when they visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Maher made Vollhardt jump by whispering “I think Sister Lucy’s here!”

Vollhardt said she does not know where all this will lead, but her children are thrilled “and the dogs really love him.” Maher has yet to meet her son, a faithful member of Red Sox Nation who lives in Florida, and that might prove a sticking point: the Long Island teacher is a Yankees fan.

Midcoast Maine in winter is a far cry from Manhattan, but Maher will return for Valentine’s Day. Vollhardt said she has made dinner reservations at the Whale’s Tooth Pub at Lincolnville Beach. And a return trip to Renys is likely.

“He couldn’t believe he could get three flannel shirts for $20,” Vollhardt said. “I couldn’t believe it when he said he’d sent the one he took back home to the dry cleaners.”

The unexpected, however, doesn’t surprise her much anymore.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.