Rich and Peggy Wilson in a family photo taken in...

Rich and Peggy Wilson in a family photo taken in August 2019. Credit: Wilson Family

Rich Wilson talks about how he met his wife, Peggy (nee Frati).

I met my wife, Peggy, in 1969 while working at Food Fair Supermarket in Bay Shore. I was asked to train Peggy, who was starting as a cashier. I quickly realized she was beautiful not only on the outside but on the inside. Later that year, I left to join the since-closed Photocircuits in Glen Cove to start my human resources career.

In May 1970, I was drafted into the Army. While home on leave I visited Food Fair, where I saw Peggy and asked her out. She said "yes!"

Our first date was at the Boardy Barn in Hampton Bays, but we left early to go to the roller-skating rink, where we felt more comfortable. Our first kiss was around Christmastime 1970 in the photo booth on top of the Empire State Building. That photo still hangs in our den.

We continued to date when I was home on leave. We were madly in love and committed to each other.

In May 1971, I got orders to Vietnam. Given the uncertainty of the war, Peggy and I agreed we would not get engaged until I returned home. I flew to Fort Ord, in California, from where hundreds of troops were being transported to Vietnam. Eight of us were told our orders were being changed. While standing in a phone booth relaying my uncertain destination to Peggy, a fellow soldier came running to tell me we were going to Germany.

At that moment, the thought that ran through my mind was: “I’m gonna have kids.”

I was surprised at that reaction, but I guess I felt that meant we could start to plan our future. Three days later I was in West Berlin and proudly served with the Berlin Brigade until my discharge on Jan. 25, 1972.

On Valentine’s Day in 1972, Peggy and I were engaged. We were married on June 17, 1972, at St. Rosalie’s Church in Hampton Bays, with a reception at the Blue Bear Boatel in Southampton. We honeymooned at Penn Hills Resort in the Poconos.

Peggy and I have lived in our “starter home” in West Islip for 46 years. Peggy’s horticultural skills have made our place look like a botanic garden. In 1996 we purchased our second home, in Naples, Florida, which has been an escape and the scene of many family vacations.

In 2011 Peggy retired after a career in art and framing; I retired as director of human resources from Arkwin Industries in 2018.

Our 50 years together have been beyond our expectations. There have been tragedies and scary moments, but they have made our bond stronger and our love and appreciation for family even greater. As the motto on our refrigerator magnet says: “The Key To Life Is How Well You Deal With Plan B.” That advice has been well heeded.

"And — yes! — God blessed us with three amazing children. Our son, Richie, and daughters, Kerri and Traci, have been the sunshine of our lives. Along with their three wonderful spouses, they have blessed us with five loving, beautiful grandchildren. We treasure our family activities and will celebrate our 50th anniversary with a family trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

Sometimes, when I am alone and the house is quiet, I find myself gazing at the multitude of family photos taken through the years and I can’t help but reflect on the moment in that phone booth, when I had that unexpected thought, and I think: Yes, indeed, we really did have kids!

— With Laura Mann

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