Eugene and Emma Kleemann of Bethpage, married 65 years, were brought together by World War II. Eugene recalls the day they met.
I went into the Army in 1942, during World War II, and was assigned to the Signal Corps. We were shipped over to England and, on June 6, 1944, became part of the D-Day invasion at Normandy. Eventually, we made our way through Germany. I had been born there. My family immigrated to the United States when I was 5.
I was 23 when the war ended in May 1945. We were in a small town called Ketsch for two days while awaiting orders to go home. Times were bad in Germany, and most of this town's buildings were bombed out.
My friend and I were leaving a restaurant when I saw a beautiful girl with long, black hair walk by pushing a baby carriage. I called out to her in German, saying I had something for her. I gave her coffee, bread and chocolate to take home. She thanked me, and we started talking. Her name was Emma and she was 15. Her 2-year-old sister, Brigitte, was in the carriage and she had a 6-year-old sister, Margaret, at home. Emma said that they had lost their father during the war, leaving their mother alone to raise three children. She introduced me to some of her friends.
The following day, Emma stopped by our headquarters. We were leaving for Bruchsal, and she wanted to thank me again. I told her that I loved her and wanted to marry her, and that I'd come back for her. I didn't want to let her go. She said she was too young and could not leave her family. We promised to write to each other. She did, however, ride her bicycle the 21 miles from Ketsch to Bruchsal to say goodbye one more time before I left Germany.
After I got back home to Glendale, Queens, my parents and I began sending monthly packages of clothing and food to Emma. She was moved by our generosity. What she and her family couldn't use, she would distribute among her neighbors.
We continued to write for the next three years, until she was ready to be my bride. She arrived in New York in 1949, and on Feb. 12 we were married. The following year, we moved to Bethpage. We had three daughters, one of whom is deceased, and three sons. We also have four grandchildren. We brought our children to Germany several times to visit Emma's family, and her sisters came here to visit us.
Emma became a full-time homemaker and loves cooking for the family. She is a very good seamstress and also enjoys knitting and gardening. I retired in 1983 as a stationary firefighter for the New York City Department of Sanitation.