More than 20 years ago, Gladys Hankerson was trying to reach her sister in Maryland when she misdialed the phone number. A man in Rhode Island answered.
The mistake led to a lasting, over-the-phone friendship all these years.
“At first, it was just like her saying, ‘Oh I’m sorry!’ and she’s really Southern, very hospitable, polite, very sweet, she’s like, ‘I’m so sorry, child!’ and then she hangs up real quick,” said Mike Moffitt, 46, who lives in South Kingstown, Rhode Island.
Hankerson, now 80, continued to dial Moffitt, and he finally asked her who she was and where she was from. That’s when Hankerson, who lives in Delray, Florida, told him she had been trying to reach her sister.
“It was at first her misdialing,” Moffitt said. “Then I think she just started calling, not misdialing.”
Hankerson said Moffitt felt like family to her.
“He’s a very nice person,” she said. “I love him to death.”
The two stayed in touch by phone over the years, chatting about their children — Hankerson is the mother of 10, Moffitt, a father of three. Some of Hankerson’s children even remember when the two first began talking, she said. Though the phone calls started as casual conversations, their friendship grew deeper over time.
“She had her son call at one time to let me know that somebody close to her passed away. He was like, ‘My mom just wanted me to call and let you know,’” Moffit said. “All of a sudden [our relationship] became not like a superficial check-in call ... I understood what it meant to her.”
Last week, on the day before Thanksgiving, the pair finally met in person when Moffitt was on a trip to Florida with his wife and children.
“We were 2 miles from her house! So I said, ‘We’re going,’” he said.
Hankerson said that when Moffitt arrived, he said “This is Mike from Rhode Island!”
“I said, ‘Mike!’ I froze,” she said. “He made my day. Yes, yes. I hugged him, he hugged me and we took a picture.”
Moffitt’s wife and kids stayed in the car because Moffitt said he didn’t want to impose, but he told Hankerson that next time he visits, he’ll introduce her to them.
“He’s very nice,” she said. “In the world these days, you don’t meet too many nice people.”
After their meeting, Moffitt shared the photo of him and Hankerson in a Facebook post that’s been shared more than 800 times, writing, “There are incredible people in this world that are a wrong number phone call away.”
This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.