Michael Wilkinson talks about meeting his wife, Susan (DeLury).
Sue and I didn’t officially meet until after high school, but she says she noticed me earlier when I was a senior at Smithtown High School and she was a junior. We officially met in 1969 at a bar in St. James called the Charcoal Hearth, which stayed open later than Gold Coast Too, another bar and the one that would become our regular haunt. We were each there with friends. Sue and I stayed so late dancing and talking that our friends left without us. Sue drove me home in her Volkswagen Beetle, which stalled intermittently the entire way.
Our official first date was at the Smithtown Theater to see the movie "Westside Story." Most of our dates were at Gold Coast Too, where we danced to great music by The Doors, Simon & Garfunkel, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Beatles. Today that music still reminds us of Gold Coast Too and our dating days. Most nights we wound up at Hilltop Diner on Main Street in Smithtown enjoying hamburgers or breakfast food. It was a regular spot of ours — and every other local person our age.
After a year or so, I got drafted into the Army and assigned to Fort Polk, Louisiana. I learned I'd be stationed in Germany, so I called Sue and said, "How would you like to honeymoon in Germany?" We were married within six weeks, on March 6, 1971 at St. Joseph’s Church in Kings Park. Our reception was on the second floor of an Italian restaurant on Middle Country Road in St. James. Our parents weren't prepared for a wedding, but our mothers came together and did they throw a party! Anyone who was there said it was the best wedding they’d ever been to. As far as I recall, the bride didn’t want to leave.
I went ahead to Germany, and Sue followed about six weeks later. I was stationed in Worms, Germany, and drove a red 1955 Volkswagen Beetle that had an iffy starter. Anticipating picking up Sue at the airport, I was worried it wouldn’t start. I ended up driving to the airport the night before and sleeping in the parking lot. When she arrived and we tried to leave, the car wouldn’t start. I had to push the car while Sue popped the clutch to get it going. Not the vehicle you want on the autobahn!
We made the most of our time in Germany. On days off, we traveled to Switzerland and Amsterdam and throughout Germany, especially loving Heidelberg, where we would watch the evening lighting of the castle while sitting on a hillside and enjoying beer and bratwurst.
We returned to the states in late 1971. Sue was pregnant with our son and went home ahead of me. We eventually bought a home in East Patchogue, still our home today. Our family grew to include three more children — all girls. I worked as a New York City firefighter and retired as battalion chief in 2006 after 34 years. Sue was an elementary school teacher in the South Country School District and retired in 2010. She’s the nicest, most innocent person I’ve ever known and is the only one who would put up with me for this long.
Our six grandchildren, ages 3 to 16, are a complete joy to us.
With the pandemic, we couldn’t throw the big 50th anniversary celebration we wanted, so we treated ourselves to two nights at the Don Cesar Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida, near our winter home in Clearwater.
— With Ann Donahue-Smukler
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