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Love story: Ginny and Jim Kelly of East Norwich

Ginny and Jim Kelly of East Norwich met

Ginny and Jim Kelly of East Norwich met at a church dance in Brooklyn in 1949 and were married two years later. They celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary in November. Credit: Kelly family

Ginny Kelly of East Norwich recalls her courtship with Jim, her husband of 66 years.

I was late to the St. Brigid Church dance in Wyckoff Heights, Brooklyn, one Saturday night in April 1949 after working a 12-hour shift at the local Woolworth’s store.

On the first note of music, a young man asked me to dance. He was neatly dressed, clean cut and taller than me, so I accepted. He said, “Hi, I’m Jim Kelly, and I’ve dreamt about you all week.” I told him my name was Ginny Payne. He was 20 and lived in Ridgewood, a mile from my home in Bushwick.

We danced all evening and talked about our families, summers on the shore, seeing the 1939 World’s Fair when we were kids and our favorite singers and songs. He sang to me as we danced.

Although we both attended the church dances in the area, we never noticed each other before that night. We made plans to go to Mass together the following morning. At home I told my mom, “I’m only 17, but I think I met the boy I’m going to marry.”

Jim and I walked to St. Barbara Church on Sunday morning. On Wednesday evening, he stopped by and we walked around my neighborhood of six- and eight-family apartments. Jim said, “I estimate there are about 1,000 people on your block.” I thought, “He seems to be a ‘thinker’ as well as a good dancer.” Our second date was a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. Jim said, “I love the salt air. Someday, I hope to get a boat.” Every Saturday night, we went dancing. I always felt safe and secure in his arms.

I was a senior in high school. When my prom was canceled, Jim insisted we go out anyway. We both dressed up — I borrowed a dress from his sister — and danced to live big-band music at the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn Heights. We fell deeper and deeper in love. When Jim proposed in November 1950, I accepted.

In January 1951, he was drafted into the Army. We were married on Nov. 24, 1951, at St. Barbara Church on his first 10-day leave. We rode a Greyhound bus to a hotel in Mount Airy, Pennsylvania. Five days later he took a train back to his base, Camp Atterbury, in Indiana. I joined him two weeks later.

Jim’s assignment there was to set up a separation and replacement center for rotation troops returning from Korea. I set up house off base. After Jim finished his military service in January 1953, we returned to New York.

Jim retired in 1990 as a salesman with Commerce Clearing House in Manhattan. I retired in 1992 as office manager for Kitchen Designs in Williston Park. We have five children, 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

We bought a Gulf Star 44 motor yacht, named it TruLuv and lived aboard in Florida from 1997 to 2015. We sailed between Florida and Long Island several times. In 2011, Jim wrote a book, under the name Jim “Poppa” Kelly, called “Love! Adventure! Happiness too: True Tales from 60 Years of Marriage with the Advice and Objections of My Wonderful Wife, Ginny.”

We lived in Punta Gorda, Florida, before moving to East Norwich in 2017. That year, we renewed our wedding vows for our 66th anniversary at Christ the King Church in Commack and celebrated with our family.

— With Virginia Dunleavy

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