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Love Story: Mary and Jack McCaffery, Bethpage

Mary and Jack McCaffery of Bethpage at the

Mary and Jack McCaffery of Bethpage at the Grand Canyon fire pit where they first met in 1962. The couple returned there in August 2013 to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Credit: Handout

Mary and Jack McCaffery of Bethpage met during a remarkable summer vacation. Mary recalls how their courtship began.


On the last leg of a 2 1/2-week camping trip cross-country from Boston to Seattle, my friend and I decided to set up camp near the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It was 1962, and I was 24.

That evening we joined a campfire discussion led by a divinity student. The topic was "Is There a God?" During the discussion, it became clear that two men on the other side of the campfire were, like us, Catholics.

As we walked to our car afterward, the two men called out to us. One of them was Jack McCaffery, and he was 30 years old. They had traveled the same route across the country that we had and were heading home to Southold. After swapping stories of some of our adventures, we invited them to join us for breakfast at our campsite the next morning.

We exchanged more stories over breakfast about their encounters with moose in Rocky Mountain State Park, our encounters with bears in Yellowstone, my motorcycle ride with another camper around Devil's Tower and the unbelievable scenic beauty of this country. We decided to travel back east in tandem. The trip was phenomenal; they were a bonus we encountered by accident or luck.

Every night, we had our own campfire discussions. We covered many topics, but when it came to politics, Jack and I were miles apart. He was a staunch Republican, while I was a true Boston Democrat.

At the end of the trip, he asked if he could keep in touch with me. I was going to live and teach in Middletown, Conn., that September, so I gave him my address there and asked him to write to me.

We waved goodbye on the George Washington Bridge. As we headed to Boston, my friend said to me, "You're going to marry Jack McCaffery."

"I know it," I replied, having no idea where that thought came from.

Jack sent me a letter about a month later, and we started dating. He taught high school math in Bethpage and lived there during the school year. During our courtship, he drove 115 miles one way from Bethpage to Connecticut to see me.

We were married on Aug. 17, 1963. Our youngest daughter -- we have six children and 19 grandchildren -- met her husband on a camping trip to the Grand Canyon in 2003.

Jack retired in 1995 as an assistant principal with the Bethpage School District. I worked as community relations director for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. I also was a councilwoman on the Oyster Bay Town Board from 2001 to 2005. We went back to the north rim of the Grand Canyon recently in celebration of our 50th anniversary. This time, we stayed at the Lodge.

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