Love Story: Desmond and Mary Ann Cooke
Desmond and Mary Ann "Maureen" Cooke of Setauket had to cross an ocean to find each other. Desmond explains.
I left my home in County Roscommon, Ireland, in July 1949 and boarded a ship to New York to work as a private chauffeur. I was the only one in my family to immigrate to America.
I was 21 and single, so I frequented many places where new arrivals from Ireland met to dance and perhaps meet someone of the opposite gender to form a romantic relationship. At one of these dance halls in Manhattan, I saw a particularly attractive girl in a polka dot dress whose eye was impossible to attract due to the wall of young men surrounding her every time there was a break in the dancing. Well dressed, with lively dark eyes and black hair, she remained beyond my reach all evening.
The next day I received my military draft notice. Being an Irish citizen, I wasn't obligated to sign up, but I knew my future was in America and I wanted to serve. I was inducted into the Army, and served from 1950-52 as a personnel clerk with the 6th Infantry Regiment in Berlin.
Upon my return to New York in 1953, I got a job with the Queens Transit Bus Service and was looking for a new place to live when I saw an ad for a room to sublet in Jackson Heights. I went to the house and, while discussing the lease with the landlady, the girl I saw in the polka dot dress two years before walked into the room. The landlady introduced me to her niece, Maureen. I stammered a hello and changed my future forever. To my delight, Maureen said she remembered seeing me at the dance.
Maureen, who by then was 22 and also an Irish immigrant, had a different experience than me. She took a plane to America in 1949 from County Mayo, the next county over from mine. She came to live with her aunt, who was her sponsor and worked as a waitress at Schraftt's restaurant in Manhattan.
Six months later, on Oct. 11, 1953, we were married in the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Jackson Heights. We bought a home in Flushing where we raised our 10 children. Maureen was a homemaker and stayed active with the Rosary Society at St. Mary's Nativity R.C. Church, in Flushing. In 1989 I retired as a route supervisor for Queens Transit. In October our children and their spouses, who have given us 15 grandchildren, threw a 60th anniversary party for us at the Watermill in Smithtown, where we danced the night away. I serenaded Maureen with a song I composed about how we met. I called it "The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress."