Barbara and Emil Hafner share a toast at Lost Farmer Brewery in...

Barbara and Emil Hafner share a toast at Lost Farmer Brewery in Mineola on July 1, 2022. Credit: Hafner Family

Barbara Hafner (nee Lavery) of West Hempstead talks about meeting her husband, Emil.

Emil and I met in July 1979, when I was 26, and he was 33. I was his waitress at Beefsteak Charlie’s in Bay Shore. I lived with my family in Brentwood and worked as an assistant buyer for Macy's in Manhattan during the week. Emil was there with three friends, and the hostess asked if I would take one more table.

After my shift ended, we all went out for drinks at a Bay Shore club with a DJ. The music was so loud, I had to ask him three times what his name was. I had never known anyone named Emil. We were attracted to each other, and we shared a love of music. He asked me for my phone number, and I asked for his. 

Our first date was at Sonny’s Place, a jazz club in Seaford. He lived in Freeport and was a teacher at Meadow Elementary School in Baldwin. I had moved to Manhattan, so he would drive in to see me.

In 1981, we moved into the West Hempstead home he had grown up in. I wanted to redecorate, so I asked to change the bathroom wallpaper. When he said no, I thought: If I can't change the wallpaper, there is no way he will be ready to put a ring on my finger.

But in March 1982, the morning of my good friend’s daughter's christening, he asked me to marry him. On Aug. 21 of that year, we were married at St. Luke's Roman Catholic Church in Brentwood with a reception at Brentwood Country Club.

When I got pregnant, Emil had strong ideas about baby names. And I had my own list of names. His one request was if it was a boy, he didn't want to name him Emil. Growing up with that name had been rough, he said. If we had a girl, her name would be Emily, after one of his fifth-grade students who was hardworking, smart and respectful. Emil rejected many boy's names. If the name matched a boy who was disruptive in class, for instance, it was out. We chose Derek for our son.

Barbara and Emil Hafner were married on Aug. 21, 1982.

Barbara and Emil Hafner were married on Aug. 21, 1982. Credit: Hafner Family

Emil is smart, funny and plays a mean jazz guitar. He loves history and is a voracious reader of everything from "Hamlet" to Rolling Stone magazine. He's got a great sense of humor, with what we call "dad jokes." Emil has had some health scares, but together we have gotten through them. Because he is a craft-beer connoisseur, I tease him that he should have license plates that say "IPA LOT."

Emil retired in 2007 from Baldwin School District, where he taught for 37 years. I taught fifth and sixth grade for 25 years, retiring from West Hempstead School District in 2019. I was active in my teachers union, West Hempstead Education Association, and served as president for 18 years. I am currently vice president of the NYSUT Retiree Council 18 and have been on the Long Island Federation of Labor Executive Board for 10 years. Emil and I keep active: We go to the gym, walk and run daily, swim and play pickleball. I'm also learning to play golf.

We plan to have a wonderful anniversary dinner with our family. We love going into either Brooklyn, where our daughter, Emily, and son-in-law live, or Manhattan, where Derek and his girlfriend live. Nothing beats time with family and friends.

If I could give advice to my younger self, it would be: Don't sweat the small stuff. Think of the future and enjoy the present.

— With Judy Weinberg

TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU MET. Access the online form at newsday.com/lilovestory or email LILife@newsday.com. Publication is not guaranteed. Photos cannot be returned and may be used in other publications affiliated with Newsday.

Latest Videos