Terri Irwin Recalls the Day She Met Late Husband Steve Irwin: 'It Was a Whirlwind'

The Crocodile Hunter star's 57th birthday would have been Friday

When Terri Irwin stopped off at a small reptile park in Australia back in 1991, she had no idea she was about to meet the love of her life.

But minutes after being introduced to a zookeeper named Steve Irwin, sparks began to fly. “Right away we were talking about wildlife, and our passions in life and I kept thinking, ‘I wonder if this guy’s married,’” she told PEOPLE. “He said to me, ‘Would you like to meet my girlfriend, Sue?’ I tried to be cool about it, but I was devastated. Then he goes, ‘Hey Sue, Suey, come here.’ And his little dog came running around the corner. ‘This is my girlfriend, Sue,’ he said. I thought, ‘Yes!’ ”

While the two had an instant connection, Steve still played hard to get when Teri, now 54, left Australia to go back home to Oregon.

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“He said, ‘We’ll have to keep in touch,’ but then a week went by and he hadn’t called, and two and three,” she recalled. “I thought maybe I misunderstood what I thought the connection was.”

Finally, after a month, he called and said, “I’m coming to Oregon to see you.”

It’s been nearly 13 years since Steve’s tragic death, (the star’s 57th birthday would have been Friday) but Terri and their children Bindi, 20, and Robert, 15, continue to honor the Crocodile Hunter’s legacy.

“Dad always said he didn’t care if people remembered him, as long as they remembered his message,” Bindi told PEOPLE. “Every day we work with the beautiful animals at Australia Zoo and do the best we possibly can to ensure that dad’s dreams and goals continue.”

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