Gina and John Binder of Melville married in March 1966...

Gina and John Binder of Melville married in March 1966 when he was home on leave from Army service in Germany. Credit: Binder family

Gina and John Binder of Melville met in grammar school. Gina recalls their childhood friendship.

John and I met in 1953 when we were third-graders at Main Street Elementary School in Farmingdale. I was Gina Westre back then. He was 9 and I was 8.

One day John happened to walk by my house on Grant Avenue. He saw me in the yard and stopped to play. That was the beginning of our life together.

We became good friends and would ride our bikes back and forth between our houses — he lived on Nelson Street — to play with his dog or my two cats. We have a picture of the “hot rod” we built from scraps of wood and old carriage wheels.

In 1955, John’s family moved to Massapequa. We spoke on the phone, exchanged birthday and Christmas cards and occasionally our fathers would drive us to visit each other.

Things changed when he turned 16. On the very day John got his driver’s license he drove straight to my house!

He went to Massapequa High School and I attended Farmingdale High School. Every Friday night we’d stop at E&R pizzeria on Main Street and eat an entire pizza. On weekends we drove around Suffolk County looking at the new model homes and imagined ourselves living in one someday.

After graduating in 1963, I went on to Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and John worked for his father. I missed John, though, and quit college. We got engaged that Christmas. I found a job at Sunrise Federal Savings and Loan in town and took evening courses at SUNY Farmingdale.

In 1965, John was drafted into the Army. He was sent to Stuttgart, Germany, and assigned to the 25th Base Post Office at Robinson Barracks. We wrote daily and began planning our future.

While John was home on leave in March 1966, we had a small wedding on March 26 with just our families in attendance. We honeymooned in Puerto Rico before flying back to Germany, where we lived off base in Botnang, a suburb of Stuttgart. I worked on base as secretary to the chief accountant of the Post Exchange. We were able to visit several other countries while in Europe.

John and I returned home in 1967 after John finished his military service, and we bought a house in Massapequa. We have been blessed with one son and two grandchildren.

John retired in 2003 as a U.S. Postal Service clerk in Melville. I received my master’s degree in secondary education in 1983 and taught at Farmingdale High School until I retired in 2005. We moved to Melville in 2013.

In March, John and I celebrated our 50th anniversary with friends over dinner at Blackstone’s in Melville, then spent a weekend at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport. We discovered we shared our anniversary with Jedediah and his wife, who married in 1862.

— With Virginia Dunleavy

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