Joan and Donald Zager of Wantagh unintentionally ended up with a destination wedding. Donald explains.
I grew up in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and after graduating high school received an appointment to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point. In October 1952, during my senior year at the academy, I was invited to a party. I did not have a date, so someone put me in touch with a girl he knew. She couldn't go to the party but she gave me the number of her dear friend, Joan Bourdon, who would become the love of my life.
Joan, 20, lived in Bayside, Queens. I was 21. We went to the party and began a 10-month courtship. We'd go to formal dances at Kings Point, to the movies and on double dates with friends. I also met and got to know Joan's family.
A week before graduation, in August 1953, Joan and I attended the graduation dance at Kings Point. It was held outdoors on a beautiful moonlit night. The midshipmen were in formal white uniforms and our dates were in gowns. In a rose arbor overlooking the dance floor, I told Joan how much I loved her and asked if she would marry me. And, happily, she said yes.
We visited my family in Gloucester and planned a formal engagement once I got my active duty assignment. I had elected to proceed to active duty in the U.S. Naval Reserve, requesting destroyer duty on the East Coast. To my surprise, my orders were to fly to San Francisco, then take the USN Mars Flying Boat from there to the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii, where I would join the fuel tanker USS Nemasket (AOG 10) as engineering officer.
As promised, I purchased the engagement ring and mailed it to Joan from Hawaii. Her family toasted our engagement over Christmas dinner with a photo of me on the table. We planned a New York wedding, but when I was told I could not leave Hawaii for another year, we decided to get married on Oahu. Between assignments at sea, I began arranging the wedding, finding an apartment and buying a car. With the plans finalized, Joan and her parents flew to Oahu. Unfortunately, my family was unable to make the trip.
We married on July 3, 1954, at the Submarine Base Chapel at Pearl Harbor, followed by a wedding breakfast at the Hickam Air Force Base Officer's Club and a small reception at the home of the Nemasket's executive officer. We honeymooned at the Moana Hotel on Waikiki Beach.
In September 1955, Joan and I returned to New York after I was discharged from active duty and bought our home in Wantagh the following year. After a 30-year career at Grumman, I retired in 1992 as the director of engineering operations and administration for technical operations. Joan was a secretary at Citibank and then with Grumman for six years until 1992. We were active members of the St. Frances de Chantal Parish in Wantagh.
Our six children married and gave us a total of 17 grandchildren, who, in turn, have given us 13 great-grandchildren. Sadly, one of our sons passed away in 2010. In July, our children hosted a 60th wedding anniversary party that was attended by more than 45 relatives.