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Love Story: One and done for couple who met on New Year's Eve

Judi and John Rettmer, seen during their birthday

Judi and John Rettmer, seen during their birthday cruise in March, celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary in September 2018. Credit: Rettmer Family

Judi Rettmer of Bellerose, Queens, recalls a whirlwind courtship with her husband, John.

I met John on Dec. 31, 1963, at a New Year’s Eve party at his house in Westbury. My cousin and his wife brought me to the party.

They thought I should get out and meet people. I was helping my father at home after my mother died. I was introduced to John (who is known by his middle name, though his first name is Adolph). My name was Judi Graeter. We knew nothing about the other even though John was my cousin’s best friend. There were two other single men at the party, but John and I gravitated to each other. He was 28, and I was 22.

Later, as we were about to leave, John gave me a kiss for the New Year and asked if he could call me tomorrow. I said, “Yes.” On New Year’s Day he called and asked if he could come over. Again, I said, “Yes,” and gave him directions to my house in South Ozone Park, Queens.

John worked for Continental Can, handling shipping within the United States. I worked for Sinclair Refining Co. in Manhattan, handling government sales from refineries to military locations, airports and local distributors so I was familiar with various cities he mentioned in talking about his job. We had a lot in common, including that John likes to eat and I like to cook.

Before he left that day, he proposed to me. Although we had met only 24 hours before, I said, “Yes.” Something just clicked between us — and I was certain that he was the one.

While out to dinner the next weekend, we were looking at our driver’s licenses and discovered we had the same birthday, March 16.

That February, we bought an engagement ring. On Sept. 19, 1964, John and I exchanged our vows at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Richmond Hill, Queens. John, a Lutheran, had converted to Catholicism. We drove to Niagara Falls for our honeymoon.

We lived in Far Rockaway before moving to Bellerose in 1966. I left my job to become a full-time mom in 1965. We had two daughters. Sadly, our youngest daughter died in 1993.

In 1966, John worked at W.R. Keating & Co., a freight forwarding company, then for International Transportation Corp., a cargo and freight company, in 1971. He purchased that company in 1985 and relocated the business from Manhattan to Bellerose in 2008.

I was a research chef for Weight Watchers International in Jericho from 1979 to 1990. I also volunteered for the Queens Village/Hollis/Bellerose Volunteer Ambulance Corps, first as a driver and then an EMT, from 1978 to 1996; I also served as chairman of the board of directors until 2004. Over the next eight years I was catering director at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and a private chef to a law firm in Mineola.

In 2004, I began working part-time with John. We both retired in 2012. Now, our son-in-law and daughter own the business. We have three grandchildren.

John was an active member of the Alley Pond Striders Running Club for 35 years, serving as treasurer, president and race director. He ran in many marathons, including the Boston Marathon, until 2016 when he suffered a stroke. We can now joke about spending our 52nd anniversary that year in an ambulance transferring John from Long Island Jewish Medical Center to a rehabilitation facility in Glen Cove. Today, John is still able to ride his bicycle to keep in shape. 

My husband is the most caring, thoughtful person I know and is always willing to help anyone in any way.

For our 54th anniversary in September 2018, we had dinner with our family. In March, John and I took a cruise to the Bahamas for our birthdays. We plan a cruise to Bermuda this year to celebrate our 55th anniversary — and each other.

— With Virginia Dunleavy

TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU MET. Access the online form at newsday.com/lilovestory — 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 dunleavy@newsday.com, 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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