Fred Dorka of Bethpage recalls the day he met his future wife, Brigitte.
I was born in 1941 in Allenstein, East Prussia, then in Germany, now in Poland. My family and I came to the United States in 1952 and settled in Jackson Heights, Queens.
We became members of the German Immanuel Baptist Church in Woodside. In 1963, I belonged to the church’s Youth Group and was asked to make a presentation. Little did I know my future wife was sitting in the audience.
Afterward, one of the girls introduced me to her friend Brigitte Korinski. She was 23 and I was 22. We had something in common. She was born in Insterburg, Germany (annexed to Russia after World War II), a few miles from my birthplace.
In 1961, Brigitte was living in Oberhausen, Germany, and working as a bookkeeper when her friend persuaded her to come to New York on a two-year visa. She had recently decided to extend her stay and had received her green card. She had her own apartment in Great Neck and worked as a housekeeper.
Brigitte and I would see each other again at meetings and church services. A few months after we first met, I asked her to go with me to an ice skating show at Madison Square Garden. We continued dating, but it was difficult since I worked evenings and she worked days. I was a helicopter technician and radioman at New York Airways in LaGuardia Airport.
We began falling in love and when we decided on a wedding date, we found an apartment near the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park World’s Fair site. We fixed up the apartment to make it feel like home but, due to our work schedules, we usually were not at the apartment at the same time. So we’d leave notes to each other about how our day went and how we couldn’t wait to be together. We still have a brown paper bag with notes we both wrote, a souvenir of that time and our love.
We married on Jan. 18, 1964, at German Immanuel Baptist Church and flew to Santa Monica, California, for our honeymoon. That year we also went to visit Brigitte’s father in Germany, where I met him for first time. After we moved to Bethpage in 1971, he would visit us every year and enjoyed working in our garden. He even put a patio in for us and did the work himself.
Brigitte became a full-time homemaker with the birth of our first child. We have been blessed with two children and five grandchildren. I retired in 2008 as a technician with Brinkmann Instruments in Westbury after 37 years at the job. Last month we celebrated our 52nd anniversary with a dinner at the Village Lantern, a German restaurant in Lindenhurst.
With Virginia Dunleavy