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Love Story: Romance brewed at Sunday tea dance at Manhattan College in 1964

Bill and Patricia Fife of Merrick celebrated their

Bill and Patricia Fife of Merrick celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in August 2018. Credit: Fife Family

Patricia Fife of Merrick recalls the day she met her husband, Bill.

We met at a Sunday tea dance at Manhattan College in November 1964. I was sitting with my friends when Bill Fife, a young man I hadn’t noticed before, came over and asked me to dance. It was the last dance of the afternoon.

He was a junior at Manhattan College studying engineering. I told him my name was Patti DeAngelis. I was a freshman at the College of New Rochelle studying nursing. I was 17. He was 20.

Bill was a cadet with the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and asked if I’d like to go with him to an ROTC party the next Saturday. I said, “Yes.”

Since he didn’t have a car, he had to take a 90-minute ride on two different buses from his house in Yonkers to mine in Pelham Manor, in Westchester. We had a terrific time at the party. And, despite the bus commute, we continued dating. He was persistent.

We participated in many ROTC social events including the ROTC Military Ball at the Statler Hilton, now the Hotel Pennsylvania, and St. Patrick’s Day parades in Manhattan.

When Bill graduated in 1967, he received an educational deferment from the Air Force and began evening classes at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn while working full time at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in Manhattan.

After my sophomore year, I transferred to Columbia University in Manhattan and lived on campus. Bill’s classes ended at 10 p.m., and he would then take the subway to my dorm on 168th Street.

We would sit in the dorm’s “beau parlor,” a room where students could visit with their boyfriends, or we’d go out for a drink. Bill was concerned someone else might steal me away. He proposed on April 1, 1967, and we began making wedding plans.

On Aug. 24, 1968, one week after I graduated, we were married at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Pelham Manor. We honeymooned in Caneel Bay Resort in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

In January 1970, Bill joined the U.S. Air Force as a captain. He was stationed at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio. We drove there, with our baby son, in a snowstorm. The trip took five days.

I worked as a registered nurse at the Santa Rosa Medical Center. Bill finished his military service in July 1972, and we moved to New Jersey before purchasing our home in Merrick in 1975.

Bill was with the Port Authority for 31 years. In 1997, he began working for AECOM, an engineering firm, where he worked until 2008, when he retired as vice president of aviation.

I continued working as a nurse at several organizations and retired as director of patient services at the Visiting Nurse Association of Long Island in 2013.

In 2000, after losing a granddaughter to sudden infant death syndrome, we set up a memorial fund to benefit maternal and pediatric programs for home care and SIDS risk-reduction awareness.

Bill, a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, was named Engineer of the Year by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2014. I serve on the Alumni Board of Columbia University School of Nursing.

We enjoy traveling, reading, playing bridge and spending time with our grandchildren.

In August 2018, we celebrated our 50th anniversary with a two-week trip to Italy with our three grown children, two daughters-in-law and three of our four grandchildren. We also had a 1950s-themed party at Per Un’ Angelo, the restaurant at the Jones Beach Hotel in Wantagh.

— With Virginia Dunleavy

TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU MET Access the online form at — or send an anecdote along with your phone number and a photo to Love Story, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747-4250; or email, or call Virginia Dunleavy at 631-843-2923. Publication is not guaranteed. Photos cannot be returned and may be used in other publications affiliated with Newsday.

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