Greg Pickering reckons he's the luckiest bloke in Australia - and not because he's survived two shark attacks, including a near-fatal mauling when a great white bit his head, back and shoulder.
Instead, he's counting his lucky stars because, at age 58 and when he had almost given up hope of finding love again, he has met his "soulmate" Rose Austgen, 61.
Pickering, a veteran abalone diver and star of the cable TV series Abalone Wars, proposed last week and the happy Perth couple are now planning their wedding and first home together. He splits his time between Port Lincoln and WA.
Amazingly, they have News Corp Sunday papers to thank for the introduction. In a story in this newspaper last year, Pickering told how he had returned to abalone diving to make ends meet, despite the fact the job almost cost him his life after he was bitten by a great white shark about 180km east of Esperance in 2013, surviving 10 hours surgery.
In that interview, the ocean lover, who is divorced from his first wife, admitted struggling to find love again because potential partners considered his job too dangerous.
Austgen read the story and emailed the Sunday Times in Perth, saying Pickering sounded like a gentleman and that she would like to contact him.
The pair exchanged emails and then had long phone conversations for months because Austgen was in Perth working as a baker and Pickering was diving in Port Lincoln at the time. When they finally met, both knew they'd found someone special.
"It's definitely a second chance. To meet the right person, to meet your soulmate - that's what it's all about," a smitten Pickering said.
"I thought the chances weren't that high that I would ever meet anyone again. For some reason that day she read the article and she thought maybe she should try and contact me. I didn't know when I got her email but I thought, 'Oh well, I'll give it a shot'.
"It went so well and then when I finally saw her for the first time, my eyes aren't great (since eye surgery from the shark attack), but I could see her smiling. I knew it. I've never had that happen to me. It was instant."
Austgen, who was also married before, said she never dreamt of marrying again but all that changed when she met Pickering, who proposed during a romantic dinner at Perth's revolving C Restaurant last week.
She described her beau as "the most wonderful person" and said of his career: "As long as he's happy with what he's doing, I'm fine with it".
The pair enjoy strolls on the beach but that's close enough to the water for Austgen, who hasn't swum in the ocean "since watching Jaws" and it was "the one thing we don't have in common".
"She likes the ocean but she's not so keen on being in the water with the fish," said Pickering, who was also bitten by a 1.5m bronze whaler near Cervantes, north of Perth, in 2004, trying to help a friend.
The couple plan to wed in 2018, followed by a trip around Australia together.
- The Advertiser