Jerome Gross of Oceanside recalls the day he met his wife, Ann, then a USO volunteer, while on leave during World War II.
In May 1943, the submarine USS Nautilus, which had suffered so many depth-charge blows while protecting its valuable cargo, was directed to depart the Pacific Theater and head for Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., for major overhaul and, for her crew, the "valuable cargo" . . . an eagerly anticipated leave of absence.
During my leave, while attending a performance of Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians back home in New York, servicemen in the audience were invited to join the band in their rehearsal room for coffee and cake. Those of us who responded were handed a numbered tag designating our assigned table.
A vivacious young charmer named Ann took my arm and humorously exclaimed, "You're mine!" Chuckling, I asked, "I am?" Unknown to us, fate had prophetically sealed our destiny.
Waring informed us that hostesses occasionally write to servicemen they meet here. "Be sure to leave your name and mailing address," he said. I left mine. In the months that followed, mail waiting for me in port after a patrol would invariably contain a cheerful letter from Ann.
Several months later I was transferred to a sub nearing completion in Groton, Conn. From Ann's letters I learned she was employed as a hairstylist in a prestigious New York salon.
There, I approached the receptionist,
introduced myself and asked for Ann. Assuming I inquired about a patron, she asked, "Ann who?" "Ann Hirschhorn," I answered.
At the sound of her name, a stunning dark-haired beauty left the patron she was attending and slowly approached the desk. I'm thinking, this can't be the youngster I remember. "I'm Ann Hirschhorn," she said. "You asked for me?"
"I'm Jerry Gross, we met at Fred Waring's coffee and cake night several months ago."
Her face lit up in a beautiful smile. With sparkling eyes she said, "Oh yes, now I remember. I wrote but never received a reply."
"That's why I'm here. I'd like to invite you for dinner." After a pause she answered, "Can you meet me here after work?" I assured her I'd be there.
During dinner she humorously disclosed the excitement my arrival stirred among women in the salon. Realizing she wasn't equipped with clothing at work suitable for a date, her co-
workers fitted her with items from their wardrobes. In my estimation that wasn't necessary. Though Ann was as impeccably clothed as a model, her striking loveliness would have been apparent had she been adorned in a gunny sack.
That first date led to our enjoying every
precious moment destiny provided. On our last memorable night together, I asked her to marry me. Lovingly she exclaimed, "Yes, yes, I will marry you!" On Aug. 4, 1945, the war was over. On Oct. 3, 1945, 64 eventful years ago, Ann and I were married. It seems like only yesterday.