On Sept. 26, Peters lost her husband when he was killed in a helicopter crash in Montenegro in southeastern Europe. Wittenberg, 42, an investment adviser, was on a business trip and was one of four people to die in the crash, which may have been caused by the rotor blade striking a power line. The couple's 14-year age difference had been bridged by a mutual passion for animals, theater and each other. "He made me feel safe," Peters, 57, once said, "and I did that for him."
When Bernadette Peters tells the story, her first meeting with Michael Wittenberg always has the kismet-like quality of a Broadway opening scene. There she was in front of her Manhattan apartment building, waiting for her date, when Wittenberg, clad in a tuxedo, walked up and asked, "Are you ready to go?" Laughing, Peters observed that he was missing a button. "I'd sew it on if I had a needle and thread," she said. Wittenberg raced to a tailor shop and found both. She kept her word—then they parted ways. When the button fell off that evening, Wittenberg gave it—and his card—to Peters's doorman. A little over a year later, in July 1996, the pair wed. Asked in 2000 what she couldn't live without, the Broadway star replied simply, "My husband."