Chris and Sheila Korte of Babylon knew right away they were meant for each other. Sheila recalls their courtship.
In August, 1974, I was serving in the U.S. Army and taking an air traffic controller training program at Fort Rucker Army Post near Dothan, Alabama. During a break in class, I went outside to the coffee truck, or “roach coach” as we called it, when another soldier and I simultaneously reached for a package of powdered doughnuts. He let me have the doughnuts and introduced himself. He was Chris Korte. I told him my name was Sheila Bertrand and it was love at first sight, for both of us.
We had both enlisted earlier that year. Chris was in the same training program but was a couple of weeks ahead of me. When we met he was 21. He grew up in Medina, Ohio. I was 19 and had grown up in Los Angeles, California. Our first date was at a bar in Dothan and we talked and talked while “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd played in the background. It was a wonderful evening.
We saw each other as often as possible until we completed our training. After training, Chris was assigned to his permanent duty station at Redstone Army Airfield in Huntsville, Alabama, and I was assigned to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia. We wrote three to five letters a week and, whenever we could, we’d commute to Atlanta, a halfway point between both bases, to see each other. In September, 1975, Chris came to visit me in Savannah with an engagement ring.
On Nov. 8, 1975, we were married at his base since it was easier for both our families to reach. His family drove to the base and my family took a bus. Chris planned everything on a strict budget, including our reception at the local Hilton Hotel. After a three-day honeymoon, we returned to our respective duty bases. Due to a paperwork “glitch,” I wasn’t reassigned to his base until a month later. We were both honorably discharged. I in July, 1976 and Chris in July, 1977.
Chris then worked as an air traffic controller in New York until 1981. He became a treasury broker on Wall Street and retired in 2013. I was also an air traffic controller in New York from 1983 to 1997.
I received a Bachelor’s degree in travel and tourism in 1999 from Dowling College. In 2010, we bought a Cruise Planners franchise, that allows us to work from anywhere in the world and gives us more time to spend with our family. We have two children, a son-in-law and three grandchildren.
For our 30th anniversary, Chris handed me a Tiffany jewelry box and inside was a package of powdered doughnuts; a touching reminder of how our relationship had started. In 2015, we celebrated our 40th anniversary with an Azamara cruise in Portugal and Spain. Last year we were blessed to fulfill a lifelong bucket list wish to visit Tahiti and cruise the French Polynesian Islands.
Chris is such a giving, generous, adventurous, active and loving person. He always makes me laugh and smile, I never tire of spending time with him. We are both so blessed, that while serving our country, we were happily brought together for the rest of our lives.
With Virginia Dunleavy