Love Story: Jerome and Irene Richards

Newlyweds Irene and Jerome Richards as seen in Newlyweds Irene and Jerome Richards as seen in a recent photo. Photo Credit: Handout

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Jerome Richards of Rockville Centre recalls the first words his wife, Irene, ever said to him and how it left him speechless.

Irene was a wardrobe volunteer in 1948 for a play I was rehearsing with the Chacel Players in Manhattan. We were both in our early 20s and hadn't met before, but heard about the acting company at Columbia University, where we were both taking classes. I was complaining about a costume. She quietly fixed the problem and said, "Now that wasn't so difficult, was it?" I looked at that cute little smile and pert toss of her head and felt my knees buckle slightly. I heard myself saying something like, "Ah, da-ba-ba." I was hooked.

Later I talked to her at every opportunity and finally asked her out to see a show. She had already agreed to see the same show with another cast member, so I bought a ticket and met them "by accident" at intermission. Her date watched us for a few minutes and then said, "I see what's happening here, so I'm leaving." And that was our first date!

Our volunteer efforts evolved into jobs at the uptown YMCA's summer program for underprivileged children. Working together strengthened our feelings for one another.

Irene then went to work at Shell Chemical Co. while I busied myself with acting auditions. I made many trips back and forth from my home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to her house in Jackson Heights, Queens.

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In 1950, I was drafted and served with the 416th Combat Military Police Co. on Governors Island, which supplied replacements for combat losses in Korea. When we were sure I would not be sent overseas, we married on May 24, 1952, at St. Gabriel's Church in Jackson Heights. I finished my service at the end of the year and went to St. John's University, where I received a bachelor's degree, then to Columbia for a master's and graduate work in speech science. I became a licensed speech and hearing therapist. We moved to Pennsylvania and returned to Long Island four years later. We have two children and four grandchildren.

Irene volunteers at the Museum of Natural History's information desk and is a member of Mensa (now I know why she beats me in Scrabble). Before retiring in 1988, I chaired a speech and drama department in the Great Neck School District, was an adjunct professor at Farmingdale State College and ran a private practice. I began acting again and am a member of SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

I'm so happy Irene said those first words to me and made all this happen for us. It's been a lovely trip!

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