Walter and Helen Gabrielsen of Jamesport celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary this year. Walter recalls their courtship.
I grew up in North Bellmore in the 1930s, when the area was mostly farmland. During the summers and after school I worked at a nearby farm for 35 cents an hour. Helen, one of five children, lived seven miles away in Westbury. Her parents owned Nickel's grocery store on Grand Boulevard.
My father was a very religious man, and he passed his beliefs along to me and my 15 siblings. So when I returned from Germany after serving with the Army's 8th Infantry Division from 1944-46 during World War II, I attended an evening service at a church in Bethpage with my twin brother.
I went back to the church several times, and one evening I spotted Helen. She was 17 and I was 21. I was quite bashful and didn't really become friendly with her until we went to a church picnic at Belmont Lake State Park. I went canoeing on the lake, and as I paddled along I noticed Helen was in another canoe trying to catch up with me. I realized then that she liked me, which gave me the confidence to ask her out on a date. To break the ice, I invited her to go to a church my father attended in Brooklyn.
We saw each other every day after that. I'd drive my jeep to her house and we'd take rides to different places on the Island. One afternoon we went to a little beach in Blue Point. As we walked along enjoying the beautiful day, I heard church bells ringing and it suddenly hit me that I was in love with her. However, I was still too shy to tell her. I did let her know four months later when I asked her to marry me. We were married on June 20, 1948, and lived in North Bellmore for 15 years. I worked as a builder and floor scraper, mostly in the mansions in Old Westbury. Then Helen and I started a horticulture business 45 years ago and moved to Jamesport, where we ran the Jamesport Flower Shop. We grew most of the flowers in our own greenhouses.
In 2007, we divided the land between our eight children and they started their own horticulture businesses. We have 27 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Helen still helps out and I lend a hand when needed. We're both involved in our church, House of Prayer in Jamesport, where Helen has played the organ for 25 years. Every summer we spend a week with our family at the church's camp for young people in upstate New York.
On our 64th wedding anniversary, I took Helen back to that little beach in Blue Point where I first realized she was the woman of my dreams. When we got back home I had tears in my eyes as I gave her 64 roses, one for each year of our wonderful marriage. I love you, Helen.