Ilse and Edward Mutchnick on Sept. 8, 2021, at LakeHouse...

Ilse and Edward Mutchnick on Sept. 8, 2021, at LakeHouse Restaurant in Bay Shore where they had a celebratory anniversary dinner. Credit: Mutchnick Family

Edward Mutchnick of Lindenhurst talks about how he met his wife, Ilse.

I had been collecting pen pals since I was in the Boy Scouts in the late 1950s. I was in a friend's apartment, also in Arverne, Queens, when I noticed he had a letter from Germany. It turned out it was from a pen pal. I asked if he could get me a pen pal in Germany. I soon received my first letter from Ilse Moik. It was 1961, and I was 15 years old.

I was not a very enthusiastic letter writer, more of a procrastinator. There were times in our 10 years as pen pals that Ilse wondered why I sought a pen pal at all. Our letters were always polite and friendly, and never more than platonic.

In 1968, I took my first-ever vacation. While in Munich, Germany, I went by train to Augsburg, where Ilse lived. She had booked a room for me in a bed-and-breakfast for two nights near her family's apartment.

After our brief encounter, I continued on my trip through Europe and eventually flew home and returned to my job and school. Still, the nature of our letters did not change; our in-person visit had no effect on either of us.

In January 1970, I was inducted into the U.S. Army. Being in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, I had a lot of time to reflect. By December, I often remembered my visit to Augsburg — and Ilse. Still, I wrote nothing of my growing feelings toward her.

By March 1971, I had orders to report to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and from there to Vietnam. But first, I was scheduled to take a two-week leave. My leave coincided with Ilse's own break between jobs. I scheduled a trip to Germany, my objective being to propose to Ilse — though she didn't have a clue what was in my heart. As far as she knew, I was just having a vacation.

Ilse and Edward Mutchnick on their wedding day in Augsburg,...

Ilse and Edward Mutchnick on their wedding day in Augsburg, Germany. Credit: Mutchnick Family

After a couple days in Augsburg, I traveled with Ilse’s family to visit their relatives in Austria. I proposed with help from a German dictionary. Ilse asked if I knew what I had said. I told her I knew perfectly well. You can imagine her surprise and shock. I asked her again and again, until she agreed, while we were at Schloss Kapfenberg in Austria. We returned to Augsburg and informed her family we intended to marry.

According to military regulations, I needed permission from my captain to marry someone in a foreign country. It felt strange to do this as I was 25 and my captain was 19 or 20. I explained that Ilse and I had known each other about 10 years, and he signed off on it.

I flew back for our wedding, on Aug. 19, 1971, in Augsburg, and a weekend honeymoon in Germany. I returned to Fort Dix while Ilse remained in Germany to arrange emigration to the United States.

I was discharged early, in October 1971, because of the U.S. troop reduction in Southeast Asia. I returned to Ilse and we toured Europe for six weeks, "our second honeymoon," before relocating to the United States.

In December 1971, we moved to Rockville Centre; later we lived in Oceanside. In February 1973, our twin sons, Ernst and Stefan, were born. I told everyone, "We have been married 18 months and already have two children." A year later we moved to Lindenhurst.

We plan to celebrate our anniversary with our family this fall. Ilse and I had a quiet celebration at LakeHouse Restaurant, in Bay Shore, in September.

— With Judy Weinberg

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