Joseph and Margaret Hegmann of Wantagh celebrated their 70th wedding...

Joseph and Margaret Hegmann of Wantagh celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in September 2013. Credit: Handout

Joseph and Margaret Hegmann, of Wantagh, created their own spark after meeting at a fire. Margaret explains.

In the summer of 1941, a fire broke out across the street from my family's apartment on Andrews Avenue in Maspeth, Queens. As I watched the scene from the second-floor window, I looked down just as a young man was looking up. Our eyes locked, and we started talking. His name was Joe Hegmann, and he lived a few blocks away. I was 16, and he was 17. We were both surprised that we had never met before, and then he asked me out on a date. It was like a scene from Romeo and Juliet.

We courted for two years, usually going to the movies and afterward to Eisenbart's Ice Cream Parlor to share a soda, having Sunday dinners at my house or just sitting on the stoop and talking for hours. Then, in 1943, Joe was drafted into the Army.

When he called from Camp Cook in California to say he was being shipped to Europe to fight in World War II and wanted to get married before he went overseas, I went to city hall and got a marriage license. Without telling our parents, we were married on Sept. 30, 1943, at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Roman Catholic Church in Ridgewood.

Joe served in the 455th Armored Division and was part of the D-Day Invasion of Normandy. His unit traveled through France, Belgium and Germany, picking up disabled trucks and tanks for repair. He nicknamed the unit "Brooklyn Express" and drew a logo with the name on the side of the unit's truck. Joe sent drawings along with his letters home. I was working at the Williamsburgh Bank and rolling bandages for the Red Cross for the troops overseas.

He returned home on Dec. 15, 1945, and we celebrated our first Christmas together. We finally had a honeymoon in Atlantic City the following June.

I worked briefly in the Good Humor factory in Queens before becoming a full-time homemaker caring for my husband, two children and my parents. Joe worked at Lucent Technologies, formerly Western Electric, as a framer and technician. He also wrote articles and did illustrations for the company magazine, The Pioneer, until retiring in 1984. Joe also volunteered at St. Mary's Hospital for Children in Bayside, Queens, where he helped disabled children with art projects, and continued painting and creating woodcarvings as a hobby.

We moved to Wantagh in 1991. This year, we celebrated our 70th anniversary at The Carltun in East Meadow, hosted by our daughters and sons-in-law. Our four grandchildren, their spouses and our 10 beautiful great-grandchildren also attended the luncheon.

I am 88 now, and Joe is 89. It seems like only yesterday that we met. It always astonishes me to think this chance meeting began a relationship that would last for a lifetime. The fire that brought us together lit a spark, and the flame is still burning.

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