Herbert Wagner of Manhasset Hills recalls the day he met his wife, Rita, and knew he had found his soul mate.
I met the love of my life on Oct. 19, 1952. I was an usher at my boyhood friend's wedding at the Park Inn Hotel in Rockaway Beach, Queens. Rita, the bride's cousin, was maid of honor. We were briefly introduced an hour before the ceremony, but as I was watching her walk down the aisle, I knew I was hooked.
We later danced at the reception. Rita, 17, was from Flatbush, Brooklyn. I was 24 and lived in Crown Heights. I asked for her phone number, but it took a few months for me to call her. I was busy finishing up my final evening classes at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and working during the day.
Our first date was with her cousin and my friend, the newlyweds. They had a car. On subsequent dates, I'd take a trolley to Rita's house and then we'd take a train into Manhattan, usually to see a foreign film or visit a tourist spot, like the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. On May 30, 1954, just 1½ years after we met, my 19-year-old beauty and I marched down the aisle once more -- this time together!
My military service had been deferred while I was attending school. Soon after our marriage, I was drafted into the Army. Fortunately, Rita was able to join me at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, then followed me to Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland and then to Fort Sill in Oklahoma. She used her secretarial skills to get employment at each Army post, giving us the means to live off the base. It was an adventure. I learned how to drive, we bought a car and went exploring the surrounding areas.
I was honorably discharged in 1956, and we moved back to Brooklyn, where we had our two lovely daughters. I joined Fischbach & Moore as an electrical engineer and was project engineer on several major construction sites, including the Roosevelt Raceway redesign and the original Roosevelt Field shopping center.
In 1959, we moved to Franklin Square and then to Manhasset Hills in 1977. Rita was a homemaker for several years before taking a part-time job as a medical secretary at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park. She retired in 1984. I retired from Consolidated Electric Corp. in 1999.
We recently celebrated our 60th anniversary at Westbury Manor with all our family, including our two beautiful granddaughters, the absolute joy of our lives, along with many terrific friends.
We consider ourselves blessed to have found one another so long ago and recognized at that time and through the years that we were meant to continue on this journey together. We learned early on to know we could depend upon one another, to share the good and the bad together, and to love one another through it all! We've been fortunate to have reached this amazing number of years together -- still best friends and sweethearts.