Joan and Norman Wist as seen in a recent photo.

Joan and Norman Wist as seen in a recent photo. Credit: Handout

Joan and Norman Wist of Manorville have her father to thank for their happy life together. Joan explains.


I was 4 years old in 1943 and living in South Ozone Park, Queens, when my two older sisters, who were walking home, heard some boys screaming for help. One of the boys had fallen into a canal about a block from our house. He couldn't swim, but fortunately there was a roll of snow fence in the water that he used to keep himself afloat.

My sisters ran to get my father and my uncle. Dad couldn't swim, either, and was terrified of the water, so when they got to the canal, my uncle held my father's feet as he stretched out his arm and pulled the boy to safety. They took him back to my house and gave him dry clothes to wear home. He was 12 years old.

In 1944, my family moved to Sutter Avenue in another part of South Ozone Park. My older brother, Pat, became best friends with a boy who lived around the corner. His name was Norm. When he told my brother a man had saved him from drowning after he fell into the canal, Pat informed him the man was our father.

Norm and my dad became very close. He was always at our house, but I paid no attention to him. He was eight years older than me, and when you're a kid, that's a big age difference.

I was 12 when Norm joined the Marine Corps. He served from 1951 to 1953 and was assigned to motor transport duties in Portsmouth, Va.

I was 16 when he asked my father for permission to take me out on a date. Dad was very strict and had never let me go on a date, but he really liked Norm and trusted him.

Our first date was to a nightclub in Franklin Square called the Top Hat. My older siblings -- three brothers and two sisters -- came with us. Every time Norm wanted to take me out, he had to get permission from my father. In the early days of our courtship, I could only go out once a week and had to be home by 11 p.m.

Three years later, on Feb. 15, 1958, we were married. Norm jokingly tells everyone that my dad saved his life with the stipulation that one day he marry one of his daughters.

We were blessed with five children, who have wonderful partners, and seven beautiful grandchildren. We've shared 55 great years together and hope to have quite a few more, and are still very much in love. It was meant for dad to save Norm's life for me.

Norm retired this year from East/West Industries in Ronkonkoma, where he was a planner. I worked for a short time as a hair dresser and then as a ceramics teacher.

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