Steve Reich of Wantagh talks about meeting his wife, Penny.
In January 1970 I was at a "Tempo Dance" in Sheepshead Bay. Tempo Dances were singles pop-up dances in outer boroughs created for those who didn’t want to travel to Manhattan to meet someone.
Walking the edge of the dance floor, I was scouring the crowd looking for a nice young woman to dance with. A very cute girl crossed my path to sit at her table. I gallantly pulled out her chair. She complimented me on how professional I was. I jokingly said, "That’s because I’m the maître d' at the Hamilton House," which was an upscale eatery in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn. She smiled, and I walked away thinking I was the coolest guy in the place. A short time later I asked her to dance. We danced for a bit, then chatted. Her name was Penny Goldner, and she and her family lived in what is now South Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I lived with a friend in Sheepshead Bay.
I called Penny a week later. We talked for more than an hour. I was thrilled at how easy she was to talk to. I asked her out for the next weekend, and she agreed. I got my hands on a "twofer" discount coupon for a Broadway show and went straight to the Theater District to buy tickets to Neil Simon’s "Plaza Suite." I was sure I’d impress her.
The next Saturday we went to the show and for an after-show bite to eat. I had a great time. When I took Penny home, I asked if she wanted to spend the next day with me. She said yes, and from then on, we were inseparable. A few weeks later we were driving past an MG auto dealership in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Seeing a big MG sign. Penny said, "Those are my initials!" A minute later, I said, "Wait, your initials are PG, not MG." That’s how I found out her given name was Millicent, and her nickname came from the last four letters of her name.
We got engaged that summer and married a year later, on June 27, 1971, at the Avenue O Jewish Center in Flatbush. The day before our wedding, I broke my wrist playing basketball with some friends and ended up spending my wedding day with a cast on my arm. We had a brief honeymoon in the Bahamas and, later that summer, went to Europe, visiting London, Paris and Amsterdam.
I continued to work for the New York City Board of Education, eventually becoming a special-education guidance counselor. After Penny graduated from Queens College, she worked for a liquor importer then for the New York City Department of Social Services. She eventually got her master’s degree in education and taught for 23 years at the Winthrop Avenue School in Bellmore.
I retired in 2002, and Penny retired in 2008. I worked as a counselor at Nassau Community College for a while, and we have both done community volunteer work. We have two amazing sons, a terrific daughter-in-law and a beautiful granddaughter. Our sons both live on the West Coast, so we have a second home in Glendale, California. Before the pandemic, we traveled between coasts frequently. We also enjoyed traveling both overseas and to exotic resorts. Penny is an avid reader and enjoys sharing her thoughts on books she’s read with friends on Facebook.
We will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary next June and plan to take our family on a special vacation (sshh, our kids don’t know about it yet!).
— With Ann Donahue-Smukler
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