Murray Kaplan of Massapequa recalls a wonderful first date with his future wife, Pat.
It was July 4, 1964, when my friend asked me to double date with him, his girlfriend and her friend Pat Guzzardo. We went to the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in my neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Pat was beautiful. I had no chance. It was love at first sight on that blind date. We were both 17 and going into our senior year at high school. We hit it off immediately.
Both of us, being Italian, enjoyed zeppoles, sausage-and-pepper sandwiches and clams on the half shell. Later, we took the bus to her home in Middle Village, Queens, where I met her large family, which was celebrating the holiday. She lived in a house in what seemed like the country, compared to my apartment building on Metropolitan Avenue. They had moved there from Ridgewood, Brooklyn, when she was 11. Her parents, Barney and Bessie Guzzardo, who later became the best in-laws you could ask for, invited me to stay and watch the fireworks. Pat and I continued dating and visited the World’s Fair several times that year.
On Feb. 10, 1968, Pat and I exchanged our wedding vows at St. Margaret Church in Middle Village, then honeymooned at Honeymoon Haven in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. Upon returning to our apartment in Middle Village, I picked up my mail at my parents’ house and found a draft notice from Uncle Sam. At this time during the Vietnam War, the Army began drafting married men, even those with children. So the honeymoon was over for us.
I went through basic training, advanced infantry training (AIT) and then was sent off to Chu Lai, Vietnam, with the Americal Division, 6th Battalion, 11th Artillery. I was an “ammo humper,” carrying shells up the hill to the howitzer guns.
In 1969, Pat joined me in Oahu while I was on R&R leave. We stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu. When she left to go home and I left to go back to Vietnam, it was truly heartbreaking.
She had hocked her engagement ring at a pawnshop to buy her airline tickets. Her mother noticed she wasn’t wearing the ring and Pat told her it didn’t fit. Pat worked in accounts payable at Grundig stereo in Manhattan and was able to save up the money and reclaim the ring within a year. It wasn’t until October 1969, when my service was completed, that we could actually start our married life.
In 1980, we moved to Massapequa. We have one beautiful daughter, a wonderful son-in-law and two terrific grandchildren. I retired in 1994 as a sanitation worker for the New York City Department of Sanitation in Queens, then worked as a tank truck driver for Twin County Pools, a swimming pool company in Farmingdale, until 2010. Pat was a procurement representative with North Shore Health Systems for 29 years. She retired in 2013.
We are members of the Order Sons of Italy in America, Columbus Lodge 2143 in Farmingdale, and have made several terrific friends.
Recently, we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary with a Caribbean cruise to Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and St. Thomas.
Other than Uncle Sam’s interruption, my marriage has been blessed. Looking forward to the next 50 years. Never say “goodbye,” always say “see you later.”
— With Virginia Dunleavy