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The split-second decision that changed Terri Irwin's life forever.

Terri Irwin knows that what she had with her late husband Steve Irwin was incredibly special.

That’s why in the 12 years since his death, she hasn’t dated anyone else.

“I think it’s wonderful when people who have lost someone find love again, but I’m not personally looking, and I haven’t been on a date in 27 years,” the 54-year-old told People magazine in 2018.

“In fact, it’s been so long, I’ve had a couple of lovely women ask me out because they figured that’s the case. But I’m content. I have two beautiful kids, a really full plate.

“I’ve already had my happily ever after.”

But that happily ever after would not have happened without the split-second decision that began their love story’s “once upon a time”.

 

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The Oregon native described her and crocodile hunter’s chance meeting back in 1991 when she appeared on comedian Anh Do’s Brush With Fame in July last year.

Terri was 27 years old at the time and her friends were travelling to the Great Barrier Reef on a holiday when they passed this “tiny” wildlife park.

“My friend said to me ‘do you want to go in?'” the mum-of-two recalled.

At first, Terri, whose day job was helping rehabilitate cougars and working as a veterinarian technician, was going to say no. But something made her change her mind.

“I said, ‘It looks kind of crummy. There’ll probably be just a couple of snakes in jars and I’ll be depressed.’ And then I went, ‘No! I’ll go in. Let’s just go in.'”

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Inside she was instantly intrigued by a handsome man presenting a show on crocodiles.

“It was small but everything was immaculately clean. And everything was free-ranging, like the kangaroos are just hopping around and it was beautiful!

“They were doing a crocodile show and this guy was in with these crocodiles and he was talking about them in ways that I never really thought of crocodiles.

Of course, that man was Steve Irwin. And that park is what is now Australia Zoo.

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“The fact that he was so humble and loving towards these animals was so attractive to me and he looked like a rock in those shorts, too… so I may have noticed that,” she said.

At the time, a career-focussed Terri wasn’t looking for love, but when she and Steve chatted after the show, they instantly connected. And then he made a joke that sealed the deal for Terri.

“All afternoon we just talked! I was trying to figure out how to say ‘do you have a girlfriend?’ And then all of a sudden like he’d read my mind, he said, ‘Would you like to meet my girlfriend?’

“I felt myself sinking into the earth and so he called out and he said ‘Hey Sue! Come here!’ And here comes this little dog and he goes, ‘This is me girlfriend, Suey.'”

“I thought, ‘OK! You’re perfect!'”

Eight months after that meeting they married, in June 1992.

Six years later they welcomed their daughter Bindi Irwin, and in 2003 baby Robert, who, now a teenager, is the spitting image of his dad.

During the interview, Terri also reflected on how she has missed her partner since his death from a stingray barb in 2006.

“I always felt with Steve, if I didn’t marry Steve I wouldn’t have gotten married. I wasn’t dating, I wasn’t even looking. I was 27 years old and thought my life would be work. Then I met Steve and fell in love.

“I just feel that we had that soulmate thing.

“In the 10 years since, I haven’t dated and thought about it because I’m not afraid to be on my own, it’s just really hard not having Steve… I’m lonely for Steve if that makes sense?”

She and her children have continued to uphold Steve’s legacy, promoting wildlife conservation at their Australia Zoo and abroad.

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