Despite a big misunderstanding, Arnold and Agnes Horwitz of Melville couldn't help falling in love. Arnold recalls their courtship.
I was at a dance at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in Manhattan on Aug. 5, 1961, when I asked this girl to dance with me. I'm Jewish, and the way she looked and her mannerisms led me to assume she was, too. Little did I know that she was Italian and that she assumed I was Italian. When I asked what her name was she said "Agnes." That is not a typical Jewish name, so I said, "No, what is your real name?" This time she said "Rhoda." I jokingly said my name was "Tony," thinking of the actor Tony Curtis. Now she was convinced I was Italian. By the end of the evening, I got her telephone number, and we started dating. She was 19 and lived in Brooklyn. I was 24 and lived in the Bronx.
We didn't discover the truth about each other until several weeks later on a date. We were both shocked. Her name really was Agnes. We never called each other by our first names and weren't sure of each other's last names. Whenever I telephoned her I'd just say, "Hi, it's me." I never met her family and never spoke to them. Agnes always answered the phone.
In the 1960s, interfaith relationships were frowned upon. By the time we knew the truth it was too late; we were hooked.
Our families were kept in the dark until we started talking about marriage. After we told them, I was not welcome in her house, and my family didn't want Agnes around. We spent a lot of time at the Howard Johnson restaurant in Rego Park, Queens. The place was known for its slow service, and we could sit there for hours. Nothing was going to stop us from being together.
On Aug. 18, 1963, we were married at Mt. Carmel Roman Catholic Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to appease her family; that was followed by a ceremony at Temple Sinai of Roslyn Heights for my family. Her father, a wonderful man, came to the temple to give Agnes away for a second time.
We paid for everything, including the reception at Leonard's of Great Neck. Our wedding gifts paid for a honeymoon cruise to the Bahamas.
Over the years my in-laws accepted me as their son, and my parents' feelings toward Agnes mellowed. Our marriage produced two gorgeous children, who have the best of both our genes. We also have two beautiful granddaughters.
Agnes retired in 1980 as a headhunter with Profile Executive Recruiters in Hicksville. I owned Insurall brokerage, also in Hicksville, and retired in 1999.
I always felt that our marriage was made in heaven. Fifty years later, I love my wife Agnes more than ever.