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Cooking New York Italian won him a Texas sweetheart

Emily and Phillip Profeta, of Shirley, celebrate their

Emily and Phillip Profeta, of Shirley, celebrate their 50th anniversary in October 2017. Credit: Profeta family

Phillip Profeta of Shirley recalls the day he met future wife Emily.

In 1964 I turned 18 and was drafted into the Army. I was trained as a medic and assigned to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where I took care of my fellow comrades who had been wounded in Vietnam. Several dear friends were serving there at the time. In May 1965, I began caring for an outpatient named Mr. Garza. He was a World War II veteran who would later become my father-in-law.

He really enjoyed Italian food and, knowing I was of Italian descent, asked if I knew how to cook. When I told him that I used to help my grandmother make fresh pasta, he invited me to his house to cook a meal for him and his family. That night I phoned my mother in Valley Stream, asking her to mail me step-by-step instructions for making sauce and pasta. She did and I memorized them.

On the day of the dinner, Mr. Garza’s oldest daughter, Emily, accompanied me to buy the ingredients at the only Italian store in the area. She was 18 and very attractive. Back at the Garzas’ home I made lasagna, which everyone said was delicious. I also asked Emily out on a date.

Emily’s grandmother and mother were strict. They insisted we take her 15-year-old sister as chaperone, not only on our first date but on all our dates. We’d usually go for a walk in the park, or to see a movie or go bowling on the base. If I wanted to steal a kiss or to hug Emily, her sister would say, “I won’t tell Granny if you give me a quarter.”

In June 1967, my grandfather died. I flew back to New York for his service. While there, Emily called me on July Fourth to say her father had died. I returned to Texas for his service.

On Oct. 14, 1967, we were married at Little Flower Catholic Church in San Antonio. Since the family was still mourning, we had a small reception with cake, coffee and punch.

I finished my military service that year with the rank of sergeant. We moved to Long Island, first to Nassau County and then to Mastic Beach. In 1976 we bought our house in Shirley. We have one daughter, four sons, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law and eight grandchildren.

Emily became a licensed practical nurse. In 1988 she received an associate degree in nursing from Suffolk County Community College and became a registered nurse. She retired in 2010 as an RN at the Suffolk County John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank. She enjoys going into Manhattan with friends to see shows.

I worked in sales for 29 years until 2005. Now, at age 72, I’m a rifle range manager at the Long Island Shooting Range of Brookhaven. I also teach bow, trapping and hunter safety classes for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

We celebrated our 50th anniversary by renewing our wedding vows at the church where we were wed in San Antonio. It is now The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower. We had a huge reception surrounded by many relatives and friends. We next plan to visit all the national parks. Our answer to achieving a long and happy marriage is by showing each other affection.

— With Virginia Dunleavy

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