Michael and Josephine "Jo" Falabella of Garden City were brought together, in part, by a reliable 1947 Mercury. Michael explains.
I grew up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and in 1948 graduated from Haaren High School in Manhattan, where I studied aviation mechanics. I turned 18 later that year and enlisted in the Air Force. I was eventually assigned to the 5th Bomb Squadron in California and served as a flight engineer on a B-29D bomb carrier during the Korean War. In October 1952, I was honorably discharged and drove from California to Brooklyn in a 1947 Mercury I bought with money won in a poker game. I was 21.
When I got back home, my friend asked if I wanted to go to a party in the Bronx. It turned out that my Mercury was the only reliable means of transportation. I agreed to drive him and four of our friends. At that party I saw my future wife, Jo Astorino. She was 18, beautiful and had just graduated from Christopher Columbus High School in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx. The party was at her house. My head wasn't into the party, though, and I didn't speak to her. I was still a GI at heart and was thinking about my B-29D and crew. We had spent several years training together and I had flown six missions across the Pacific Ocean with them.
Then, on the day after Christmas, I was home when the phone rang. It was the same friend asking me to drive him to the Bronx again. I wasn't feeling well and hung up on him. He called right back and said he had joined the Marines and wanted to see the girl he had been dating before he left. She was at Jo's house. I agreed to take him. My Mercury was a taxicab and I was the driver. The four of us went to a restaurant for dinner and dancing. This was my first date with Jo. She asked me to dance. I am a terrible dancer, and it wasn't long before she told me so. After dinner, I asked for her phone number and she obliged.
Jo was a secretary in Manhattan. I was working varied shifts as a mechanic at Idlewild Airport (now Kennedy Airport) in Queens. I'd meet her for lunch in Manhattan or she would take the subway to my house after work. We'd go to the movies, dinner or bowling and then I'd drive her home. Sometimes I'd go to Jo's house after work and she'd make me pancakes. On Aug. 29, 1954, we were married in St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, then had a reception at the Essex House.
Jo became a full-time homemaker and mom soon after we married. I retired in 1995 as airworthiness inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration. My job sent me to countries around the world and Jo often accompanied me. We celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary in August, with our two children, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, at a dinner party at Pompei restaurant in West Hempstead. Before we married, aviation was my first love, but it had to move over. I consider myself a lucky man.