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Love story: A proposal put on ice, but only for a time

Bill and Joan Holmes of Babylon celebrated their

Bill and Joan Holmes of Babylon celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary in April 2018. Credit: Holmes Family

Joan “Joni” Holmes of Babylon recalls the day she met her future husband, Bill.

In 1948, Bill and I were attending the Teachers College at what is now the University at Buffalo. He was studying industrial arts. I was enrolled in the art education program and taking classes at Albright Art School, across from campus.

One day, my friend Lyn and I were ice skating in nearby Delaware Park. Bill, who met Lyn in a speech class, spotted us and walked over. “Who’s the little girl you’re baby-sitting?” he asked as I wobbled by with turned-in ankles and wearing layers of bulky winter clothing. “I’m not baby-sitting,” she said with a laugh. “That’s my friend Joni Stahlberg.” I was too busy to notice, desperately trying to stand up on my ice skates. Nor was I very interested when Lyn later looked up Bill in the school directory.

I ran into Bill several times over that school year, either at the school cafe or at potluck suppers at the Methodist church in town. I was 17 and he was 24.

He had served in the Coast Guard during World War II. From 1943 to 1946, he was a signalman and firefighter, as well as being assigned to harbor, shore patrol and lightship duty in Maine, and then in Boston Harbor in Massachusetts.

During summer break I came home to Babylon, and Bill went home to Rochester. When I returned to school in the fall, he called to ask me for a date. I turned him down; I had plans to go to a pop concert with my girlfriends.

I found out much later that his feelings were hurt. He had wanted to ask me out before, but I was underage. He waited until I turned 18. When he called again for a date, I said, “Yes.”

A year later, we became engaged, and on April 12, 1952, we were married at the Babylon Methodist Church. Lyn was our maid of honor. For various reasons, several guests — including Bill’s best man — couldn’t get to the wedding. Bill’s father stepped in, and my mother invited neighbors to the reception so the food wouldn’t go to waste. We boarded a plane for our honeymoon in Washington, D.C., where we found cherry blossoms and made wonderful memories. As I held my husband’s hand, I knew from that day on things would always be good. I was right.

A week later, I returned to college. I was student teaching and living at the YWCA. I graduated that June and joined Bill in the Finger Lakes area, where he was teaching.

In 1956, we moved to Babylon into the house my dad had built for us.

We have two daughters, two sons-in-law, three grandsons and three great-grandchildren. We joined the Long Island Yacht Club and sailed and raced on the Great South Bay.

We have traveled overseas, taken camping trips with our family, hosted exchange students and for 20 years designed and constructed stage sets for our community theater group, The James Street Players.

Bill was president of the International Penguin Class Dinghy Association and president of the Babylon Village Historical and Preservation Society.

We both retired in 1986. I had taught art at South Bay Elementary School. Bill had been chairman of the industrial arts department at West Babylon Senior High School. He is now 93, and I am 86.

Last month, we had a quiet dinner at home for our 66th anniversary — but began it with caviar and Champagne.

— With Virginia Dunleavy

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