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Love Story: At 15, she didn't like him at all, but he persisted

Miriam and Paul Pepe of Laurel Hollow celebrated

Miriam and Paul Pepe of Laurel Hollow celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary earlier this month. Credit: Pepe Family

Paul Pepe of Laurel Hollow recalls the day he met his wife, Miriam.

When we first met, I was 18, and she was 15. We both attended a dance (called a “Confraternity”) in 1952 at Sts. Simon and Jude Church in our neighborhood of Gravesend, Brooklyn.

I was taking classes at Brooklyn College at night. I wrote for the college newspaper and was at the dance to gather some stories for a weekly events column.

It was not a propitious first meeting. I liked her immediately. She was short, cute, with beautiful brown eyes.

She did not like me. Not at all. Not even a little bit. But I wasn’t about to give up.

As we talked, I learned that Miriam Cacciabue was a sophomore at Bay Ridge High School, and she had her heart set on becoming a nurse.

I jumped at that bit of information. At the time, I was working during the day as an office boy for a magazine called “Nursing World.” I quickly offered to send her a free subscription to the magazine, all I needed was her address.

She was hesitant. I persisted. She gave in. I kept my word and sent her that magazine and several other publications. Then, with all I was doing between school and my jobs, I didn’t have time to contact her.

We didn’t see each other until six months later, when we happened to meet again at a mutual friend’s engagement party. I invited Miriam to get some pizza with me after the party. That was our first date. It would be a long seven years before I popped the question.

Soon after we started dating, I was drafted into the Army. I served from 1952 to 1954. After I was assigned to the communications zone in Seoul, Korea, in 1953, Miriam was my most faithful correspondent. She graduated from high school that year and did not understand why I couldn’t arrange to come home from Korea for her senior prom. She is still upset about that.

When I finished my military service, I began working in public relations. Miriam followed her dream and graduated in 1956 from the Bellevue School of Nursing in Manhattan. She began a career as a registered nurse, working in the psychiatric division at Bellevue Hospital and becoming head nurse. From 1958 to 1962, she worked for an oral surgeon in Manhattan.

We married on April 11, 1959, at St. Mary Mother of Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Gravesend, then we had a spectacular three-week European honeymoon visiting Paris, Rome and Spain. That year we also bought our first house in Malverne.

Miriam left nursing when we started our family, becoming a full-time mom to our three wonderful children — two daughters and a son.

I started my own public relations firm, Paul E. Pepe Associates Inc., in 1960. Miriam was always beside me with helpful suggestions and kind words of encouragement. I was also an associate professor from 1985 to 1995, teaching a new public relations course I had created, at what’s now LIU Post in Brookville. We moved to our home in Laurel Hollow in 1968.

Miriam later went back to work as an elementary school nurse with the Cold Spring Harbor School District.

Sadly, we lost our son, a high school senior, in 1984. We established and still run the Paul E. Pepe Jr. Memorial Fund, which raises money for scholarships.

On April 11, my wife and I celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary with our daughters, our sons-in-law, our two terrific granddaughters and close friends. After all these years, Miriam and I look back at that first meeting and laugh about it.  

— With Virginia Dunleavy

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