Love Story: Desmond and Mary Ann Cooke, Setauket

Desmond and Mary Ann "Maureen" Cooke of Setauket

Desmond and Mary Ann "Maureen" Cooke of Setauket at their 60th wedding anniversary party in October 2013. (Credit: Handout)

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."

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