Mark Kletter of Hewlett Harbor talks about meeting and marrying his wife, Maureen, despite some family opposition.
I grew up in Far Rockaway and took a leave from college in my senior year to join the Coast Guard Reserves. It was 1967, and I did six months of active duty in Cape May, New Jersey. After active duty I wanted a temporary job before returning to Pace University to complete my senior year. I took a seasonal job for a few months at Stern’s, a department store in Manhattan. In December, I was asked to join the management training program where Maureen Condon, my future wife, was an assistant buyer. I introduced myself, and over the next two months we shared breaks and lunches. We were 21 years old.
In March 1968 we went to the circus. It was our first and only date. I say “only” because Maureen’s mother told her that if she dated me again she would have to move out of her mother’s apartment. Maureen moved out and moved in with my parents and me in Far Rockaway. This was all because I'm Jewish and my wife is Catholic.
After I returned from two weeks of active duty in 1968, I asked Maureen to marry me. She said yes, and we were married Oct. 20, 1968, in a synagogue in Far Rockaway followed by a wonderful reception at Tavern on the Green. It was a Sunday afternoon buffet lunch. We paid for the wedding with our savings and the gifts from our wedding.
It would have been a perfect day if Maureen’s mother and her mother's family had attended. All the relatives from her father’s side attended our wedding (Maureen’s father had died four years earlier). Two years after our wedding, Maureen and her mother reconciled.
After we were married, Maureen and I lived with my parents for six months until we rented our own apartment in Brooklyn Heights, where we lived for two years. After that we bought a two-family home in Far Rockaway. We were blessed with our first son, Justin, while living there. Six years later we moved to Woodmere, where our second son, Grant, was born.
I started a job at Moldow Associates, a group that represented commercial furniture manufacturers. The company’s territory was from Maine to Virginia, so I was on the road one week a month. While I was away, Maureen took care of our sons. Over time I became the president and eventually the owner of the company; I sold it in 2014.
Maureen has so many skills and talents. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in fashion design. She made her wedding dress and the dress my mother wore to the wedding. She has sewn our curtains and altered our clothes — she is an expert with a sewing machine. With her artistic talent, she has taught stained-glass classes in adult-education programs. Her paintings have been presented at art shows. She is also an excellent cook, and we love to entertain friends and relatives in our home. After 51 years of marriage, Maureen is still the most kind and loving person I know.
We are enjoying retired life. It was hard to take time to travel while working and raising a family, so we’ve tried to make up for it. Recent destinations have included Alaska, Mexico, Ireland, Scotland and Yellowstone National Park. We spend the winters in Florida and enjoy our house and pool in Hewlett Harbor during the summer.
We celebrated our 50th anniversary in October with our two sons, our daughters-in-law and our five grandchildren.
— With Ann Donahue-Smukler
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