James Matias of Selden recalls his courtship with future wife Florence.
Our romance began in the spring of 1964 when I was a senior and Florence was a sophomore at Island Trees High School in our neighborhood of Levittown.
We started talking one day during lunch period when we noticed we were both wearing the same color shirt. I said, “Why don’t we wear red tomorrow?” The following day Florence showed up in a red shirt and I did not. She wasn’t upset, which made me think she was interested in me.
We’d see each other at lunch every day, and Florence often dropped off paperwork from the school’s office to my homeroom teacher. Unbeknownst to me, she volunteered to do this just so she could see me.
We were both 17. Florence, who is five months younger than me, was two grades behind due to an illness in elementary school.
After a few weeks, I got the courage to ask her to my senior prom. She was caught off guard and actually thought I was speaking to the girl behind her. When I repeated the question, the response I received was not expected but understood. She had to ask her parents if she could go. I then asked her for a date so I could meet her mother and father. They gave their approval.
The prom was at the Huntington Town House. Afterward, we went to a local club and saw the female pop singing group The Toys perform.
We continued dating, going to Century’s 110 Drive-In Movie in Melville or visiting the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens.
That fall, I went away to SUNY Orange County Community College in Middletown, and then to Springfield College in Massachusetts in 1966. Every weekend I’d come home to see Florence. She always offered to type my school papers. She graduated from high school in 1966 and got a job with the telephone company.
I was a senior in college when we were married on Friday, Dec. 15, 1967, at St. Martin of Tours in Bethpage. I was on the college’s wrestling team, and the first five days of our honeymoon were spent in Pennsylvania at wrestling matches. We then had a couple of days to ourselves in New Jersey.
My wife’s maiden name is Holliday and, interestingly, our three sons were born on Election Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve, respectively. They have given us seven wonderful grandchildren.
I retired in 2003 as a physical education teacher and a wrestling coach at Longwood High School in Middle Island. Florence was a telecommunications operator at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson and retired in 2017.
We enjoy vacationing in the Caribbean. In 2007, we had a family reunion in Aruba, where I planned a surprise celebration, including a renewal of our wedding vows, for our 40th anniversary. Florence had no knowledge of the events and was wonderfully surprised when the captain of our American Airlines flight made the announcement en route to the island.
On Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, we celebrated our 50th anniversary by renewing our vows again, this time at St. Margaret of Scotland Church in Selden after a daily Mass. When the priest announced to the congregation what was taking place, many of them stayed and later came over to congratulate us.
Needless to say, we are truly blessed and thankful for our time together and the opportunity to love each other, and look forward to many more years together.
— With Virginia Dunleavy