At Yonkers, Mr. Spilkowitz felt the same way. “I had this unfulfilled bachelorette summer,” he said. “Something was missing.” That was Mrs. Knight. When she stepped aboard the Get Free in October and showed off a series of sea legs she hadn’t expected, love set sail.
Mrs. Knight, a novice, was a natural. “I had a lot of guests on the water,” said Mr Spilkowitz, who was learning to sail at Cornell and who was on the Get Free boat for a friend. “Some really want to jump in, but hate to be instructed. And some just want to laze around and have a drink. Someone who has the courage and instinct to be a good crew member is rare, but Kamillah was that and more. “By the end of their sunset tour of the Hudson, they were caught up in something essential.
It felt right for Mrs. Knight to fall in love in an active setting. She played rugby at Cornell. And “growing up my mom was great at keeping me active, and she was also great at encouraging me to be myself,” said Ms. Knight. A single mother like her daughter, TaQuisha Knight felt it was important to convey the importance of her African American and Native American heritage. Montclair’s diversity and culture, Ms. Knight said, helped her overcome negative self-perceptions. She wanted the same verdict protection for her daughter Kari, part of why she chose to raise her in the area. The family moved to West Orange, NJ in 2017.
Mr. Spilkowitz has worked at Yonkers in Andrus, a home care facility for teenagers with emotional and behavioral problems, since graduating from Cornell. His mother, Michele Spilkowitz, said it had long been clear that he would work in a caring role. “Stephan is loving and very patient,” she said. “He always has the talent to adapt to people.”
He and Kari, Mrs. Knight’s daughter, matched each other on their first visit in March 2017, two months after Mr. Spilkowitz accepted Mrs. Knight’s invitation to be exclusively hers while on a cruise to the Bahamas. Before being introduced to Kari, he fought his nerves. But when the little girl pointed out an emoji cuddly toy in a Montclair shop window, he exhaled. “I jumped in and said the poop emoji was my favorite. And that was it. We clicked from there. “
The shot of Mrs. Knight clicking with Mrs. Spilkowitz a year later surprised them both. In the summer of 2018, Ms. Spilkowitz, a French-Haitian immigrant, was diagnosed with Lewy dementia. “She wasn’t physically, psychologically, or cognitively herself, but her mind was still there,” said Spilkowitz. His family, including his sister Claudine Lafond, who lives in Australia, and his father, Mark Spilkowitz, a native New Yorker raised by Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Poland, gathered to help her fight the progressive disease. “We didn’t want to give up.”