Robert and Aileen Passanisi of Lindenhurst have shared 70 years of love and devotion. Robert recalls how it all started.
I met my future wife, Aileen Duffy, on Jan. 6, 1942, during a matinee at the Brooklyn Strand Theater on Fulton Street. At intermission I spotted two young girls, a blonde and a brunette, in the balcony. I decided to go over and talk to them; to my surprise, they invited me to sit with them. I didn't know that they were being bothered by a group of guys and that they figured my presence would end the annoyance.
When the show was over and we went outside, I suddenly realized I was making a play for the wrong girl. Betty, the blonde, was very attractive, but Aileen, the brunette, had this angelic face that astounded me, and I wondered how I was going to work this out. By the grace of God, it turns out that Betty was seeing someone and suggested that I take Aileen on a double date with her and her friend.
At the appointed time, Betty's friend wasn't able to make it, and Aileen decided not to go, until her friends persuaded her otherwise. We went to the Metropolitan Theatre, also on Fulton Street. I was 17 and Aileen was 18. It was very cold when we came out of the theater, but Aileen insisted we walk from downtown Brooklyn to her home in Williamsburg. I lived in what is now the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn.
The walk included spotting entranceways, such as a storefront, where we could exchange a kiss or two.
In September 1943, I volunteered for a secret and very dangerous mission with a unit later known as "Merrill's Marauders." We were sent behind enemy lines in the North Burmese jungles to destroy their infrastructure. During that time Aileen gave birth to our first son.
We survived the mission, and on July 10, 1945, I returned home and saw my 18-month-old son for the first time. We have three other children, including a pair of fraternal twins.
In 1950 we moved to Lindenhurst. Aileen worked at Opti-Ray, an eyeglass company in Farmingdale, and retired in 1985. I earned a degree in electrical engineering and retired in 1991 from Norden Systems in Melville as a microwave engineer.
Last December we celebrated our 70th anniversary with family and friends at a dinner at the Knights of Columbus in Lindenhurst. We now have 12 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.
Needless to say, we were truly blessed, and if we had to do it over again, we wouldn't change a thing.