James Pellegrino, of Westbury, recalls the day he met Dorothy, his future wife, and the confession she made after they started dating.
I was 24 years old in 1945 and living with my parents and six siblings on Hopkins Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I returned after serving for three years in the Navy’s Armed Guard Unit as a gunner on transport ships during World War II.
My mother decided to throw a party for me and my younger brother, who was leaving for military service. The invite list included Mrs. DiSalvo, a co-worker at the Jonel Dress Factory where they worked as seamstresses, her husband and their daughter, Dorothy, 17, who also worked at Jonel.
During the party, the young adults gravitated to another part of the house and began a game. Here I was, a war veteran, playing spin the bottle. When it was Dorothy’s turn, the bottle pointed to me and we kissed for the first time.
A few days later, Dorothy showed up at my house. My parents invited her to stay for dinner, and afterward I walked her home. She lived in Ridgewood, Brooklyn, above a candy store on Stockholm Street. I asked for her telephone number. She said she didn’t have a phone and gave me the number to the candy store’s public phone. Many people back then used public phones in nearby businesses to make and receive calls.
Dorothy and I soon went on our first date and saw “Love Letters,” a movie starring Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten. We both loved to dance and began seeing each other regularly, going to the movies, dinner or dancing.
Sometime over the next six months, Dorothy made a confession. Before I came home from the Navy, she was at my house dropping off a package to my mother when she saw my military service picture and developed a secret crush.
We wed on March 23, 1946, at St. Joseph’s Church in Brooklyn, followed by what was known as a football wedding reception. The entire neighborhood was invited, some 150 guests, who passed sandwiches down the table to each other. We stayed in Brooklyn that night at the Piedmont Hotel, and then honeymooned in Spring Valley, in Rockland County.
In 1959, I opened J&D Seafood. I ran the store and sold the fresh fish. Dorothy would cook fish dinners and chowders for takeout orders. Our three children would also help out at the store. We bought a house in Westbury in 1971. I retired in 1984 and my son took over the business, renaming it Syosset Seafood.
I adore my wife, and from the beginning I have always told her I love her a “hundred million thousand.” We celebrated our 70th anniversary last month at The Galleria Restaurant in Westbury with our children, five wonderful grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
— With Virginia Dunleavy