John Ragusa of Port Jefferson Station recalls his first date with wife Edith.
My parents came to New York from Modica, Sicily in the early 1900s and settled in Freeport, where I grew up. After graduating high school, I went to Columbia University, received my bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1953 and got a job in Manhattan. Then, in March 1954, I was drafted into the Army.
After finishing communication equipment repair training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, I was asked to stay on there and teach. I declined and was assigned to the 33rd Infantry Regiment in HQ Company at Fort Davis, in the Panama Canal Zone.
Before shipping out on Dec. 29, I went home on a two-week leave and stopped by Columbia University to visit friends on the civil engineering staff. One friend, now working at M.W. Kellogg Co. in Manhattan, happened to be there and suggested a double date with her, her boyfriend and a colleague of theirs named Edith Edwards. I said, “no,” but was eventually persuaded to go. When I picked up Edith at her home on Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn for our blind date, I immediately fell in love. We met our friends at the Lion’s Den, the student pub at Columbia University, and had a great time. Edith, an executive secretary, was 21. I was 23. That night, I told her I was in love with her. She didn’t believe me but agreed to a second date for the following night.
I took her to Two Guitars, a Russian nightclub near the East Village, where I proposed to her. This was too fast for Edith and she said “no.” I insisted she have my college ring. I met her parents and she met my family. And then I left for Panama.
We wrote to each other daily over the next five months and eventually decided to get married.
In May 1955, Edith made plans to visit me in Panama. I asked my mom to buy an engagement ring for her. She did and hid it inside a wrapped birthday present for me, which she gave to Edith for the trip.
When Edith handed me the package, I unwrapped it, took out the ring and asked her to marry me, again. This time she said, “yes.”
We got married on Jan. 28, 1956, in St. Teresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn, two weeks after I finished my military service. Edith became a full-time homemaker. I retired from IBM in 1989 as marketing manager.
We have four children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild. We lost another grandson in an accident. Last month, we celebrated our 60th anniversary with the family at Four Seasons Bistro in Fernandina Beach, on Amelia Island in Florida. I’m so thankful that I agreed to a blind date with the gal from Brooklyn!
With Virginia Dunleavy