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Love Story: Gertrude and Harvey Ornstein, Melville


Gertrude "Gitty" and Harvey Ornstein of Melville recently celebrated their 63rd anniversary with a family dinner. Credit: Ornstein family

Harvey Ornstein of Melville recalls the fateful night he rediscovered his future wife, Gertrude, in an ice cream shop.

In 1951, I was 24 and living with my family in East New York, Brooklyn, after serving as a sergeant in the Army/Air Force during World War II. I served from 1945-47 and was stationed in the Philippines and Japan, where I worked as a key punch operator.

Most nights, after finishing school -- I attended New York University full time on the GI bill -- I'd go to Premier Bar on Sutter Avenue with my friends. One night the bar was closed, so we decided to go next door to Meyer's ice cream shop. While drinking my ice cream soda I noticed the most beautiful girl I had ever seen sitting in a booth with a few friends. I kept staring at her. One of my friends said her name was Gertrude "Gitty" Schleifer.

I knew her; she was one of my sister Esther's pain-in-the-neck friends. I remembered hating when Esther's friends would come to our little apartment, noisily chatting and laughing and screeching about boys, always boys!

I couldn't believe this was Gitty. She was now 19 and a ravishing beauty. I went over to her. She remembered who I was and seemed really happy to see me. She was a secretary at a big liquor wholesale business in Manhattan in what is now SoHo. Gitty agreed to go out with me, but only on a double date with her friend.

I found a date for her friend, and we decided to go to Pizza King in Queens. However, when I picked Gitty up in my car, she insisted on sitting in the back with her friend. I found out later that she was afraid to sit with me because she had heard rumors that I was dating a lot since returning from the service. I guess I proved the rumors wrong, because we continued seeing each other. Six months later we were engaged.

Our wedding and reception, on June 7, 1952, were at Franklin Manor in Crown Heights. We then flew to Miami for our honeymoon. It was Gitty's first plane ride.

In 1960 we moved to Huntington, two years before the Long Island Expressway's exit to Route 110 was finished. Our families thought we were crazy. Gitty became a stay-at-home mom. We have three daughters and are also blessed with two wonderful sons-in-law and the best grandson and granddaughter anyone could wish for.

I taught math and business at Andrew Jackson High School in Queens for 30 years before retiring in 1986. I then taught at Queensborough Community College until 2003 and at Suffolk County Community College until 2008, when I was 81.

Gitty and I live in a senior community in Melville and recently celebrated our 63rd anniversary with a family dinner.

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