Dave and Pat Schecher of St. James, once childhood neighbors, ended up following similar paths. Pat recalls their unlikely wartime reunion years later on the West Coast.
Dave and I grew up across the street from each other in Baldwin Harbor from 1955 to 1963. Although our fathers went fishing together, we attended different schools and so our lives did not intersect. When I was 14 and Dave was 15, my family moved to Santa Barbara, Calif. I eventually went to the University of San Francisco and studied nursing. When I graduated in 1970, I joined the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. This was during the Vietnam War, and there was a great need for skilled nurses. I was assigned to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego.
One day in October 1972, a patient of mine had a visitor. It turned out to be Dave! He recognized me right away, even though it had been 10 years since I'd left Long Island.
Dave graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in music performance -- he plays the trombone -- and since his draft notice from the Army was on its way, he decided to join the Navy in 1969 to meet his military obligation. He was assigned to a Navy band and my patient was his bandmate. Dave also played in community bands and was taking music lessons while off duty. After he left I remember thinking, "What were the chances of running into him in such a huge city and a huge hospital."
Then, three months later I got an unexpected call from Dave. His music teacher was ill but refused to go to a doctor. We arranged to meet at the teacher's home, where I talked him into getting medical treatment. I found out later that my former patient was trying to get Dave to ask me out and had suggested he call me for advice. Dave did ask me to lunch as a way of thanking me for my help, and that was the beginning of a long, loving and deeply committed relationship.
In 1973, he completed his military service and returned to Long Island. When I visited him that November we became engaged. I finished my service in January 1974, and a few days later, on Jan. 19, we were married at St. Christopher's Church in Baldwin. We remained on Long Island and raised our three children here.
Dave retired last year after 30 years as a music teacher and band director at Bayport-Blue Point High School due to a medical condition. As he recuperates, he continues to play his trombone, write music and hopes to resume his job as band conductor at the USDAN Center for the Creative Arts and Performances, a summer day school in Wheatley Heights.
I'm a public health nurse with the Suffolk County Department of Health in Great River, serving as supervisor for western Suffolk. Anyone who knows us would attest that we bring out the best in each other and have been true "soul mates" for the past 40 years. Here's to future anniversaries, laughter, joy and sharing!