Barbara and Gary Mandell as seen in a recent photo.

Barbara and Gary Mandell as seen in a recent photo. Credit: Handout

Gary Mandell of Great Neck recalls the day he met his wife, Barbara, and their interrupted courtship.

I certainly would not consider myself a religious man; yet, I owe much of my life's happiness to Temple Beth El of Great Neck. In the spring of 1966, my friend attended a dance there and met two girls. One was a gorgeous blonde named Barbara. He thought she would be perfect for me. Since I lived nearby, he invited them to drive over to my house with him.

I couldn't believe my eyes. Barbara was amazing and hot. She was 15 and I was 16. We hit it off and started to date. She lived in Manhasset Hills and would come listen to my band play gigs.

We had been dating for about a year when I got my driver's license. To impress Barbara, I asked my mom if I could drive her new Jaguar. Although my dad cautioned her that I was a new, inexperienced driver, my mom acquiesced.

That night, I picked up Barbara, drove too fast around a sharp curve and ran over a stop sign, putting a foot-deep hole in the hood of the Jag. Fortunately, no one was injured, but I was traumatized and so embarrassed that I stopped seeing Barbara.

Still, I couldn't get her off my mind. Six months later, before I started college, I called to see how she was doing. She was cool toward me at first, but we ended up having a nice conversation. I would call her about twice a year after that, ostensibly to catch up, but mainly to find out whether there was anyone significant in her life. I was inexorably drawn to Barbara, but was not ready to make a serious commitment until my junior year of college. I called her then and asked her out on a date. We picked up where we left off.

We were married on June 25, 1972, a month after I graduated from New York University. I went on to graduate school to become a psychologist, and earned my PhD in 1979.

My wife and I have been married for 40 years, and are inseparable and deeply in love. We walk, bike ride, play tennis and just enjoy living our lives together. Barbara, an avid tennis player, keeps very busy organizing numerous informal tennis matches for other players in the area. I am a school psychologist at Valley Stream Central High School and have a private clinical practice in Great Neck. We have two wonderful children and two adorable grandchildren. My darling Barbara, you mean the world to me, and my love for you is boundless. A man could not hope for a more wonderful wife.

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