Rich Bartumioli of Melville recalls the day he met his wife, Jo-Ann, and their courtship.
I grew up in St. Albans, Queens, and graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1950. In February 1953, when I was 21, I was drafted into the Army and was stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, with the Signal Corps in radio repair. After serving for two years, I returned home and was discharged in February 1955.
Back then, everyone went to dances. One evening in April, my friend and I happened to go to a dance at Ascension Church in Elmhurst. That’s where I met Jo-Ann Stuppi, my future wife.
Not only was she cute, she was also a good dancer. We danced together, and at the end of the night I asked whether Jo-Ann, who lived in Corona, needed a ride home. She said her father was picking her up. Then I asked her how old she was and she said she was 17.
I took her phone number and soon called her for a date. We went to see a movie. That’s when I found out Jo-Ann was a senior at Newtown High School and was just turning 17. She hadn’t mentioned that to me at the dance. Jo-Ann was also working part-time as a bookkeeper through the school’s job program.
When we started dating, her mother thought I was a married man because, at age 23, I was prematurely losing my hair and was driving a new car. She took down my license plate number just in case her daughter didn’t come home. She was always leaning out the window looking whenever we came home from a date. I finally won her trust after Jo-Ann met my family.
In April 1956 we got engaged on the steps of St. Leo’s Church in Corona after the Easter Vigil Mass. We were married on Nov. 18, 1956, at the same church. Our reception was at Tufaro’s in Corona. We then drove to Silver Springs, Florida, for our honeymoon.
When Jo-Ann and I moved to Huntington that year her mother said, “That’s God’s country! You’ll probably never see me again.” In the meantime, she and Jo-Ann’s father visited us every Wednesday. He was a milkman and brought us milk for the week. They were the best people in the world.
We have two wonderful sons who have given us five grandchildren. We also raised two nieces, who have five children between them whom we also consider our grandchildren.
My grandfather, father and brother were builders, so naturally I became a builder. I had my own contracting company, Rich Bartum Custom Builder. My wife, a great cook and a wonderful homemaker, took care of the house, the children and all the bookkeeping for my business. I retired in 2000. My son has his own contracting business and I help him to do estimates.
We love to travel, especially to Florida and Italy. Besides playing golf, Pickle Ball and boccie, we still go dancing, which brings back happy memories of the first time we met. Jo-Ann and I celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary this month at BiVio in Huntington with our immediate family. We have had a wonderful and blessed life together.
— With Virginia Dunleavy