Robert Harris of Uniondale recalls the first time he saw his future wife, Novella.
Novella and I attended the same party in the summer of 1963, but we didn't meet until a week later. The party was in Harlem at the home of a friend I knew from church. When I got there, I noticed this very attractive girl sitting in the living room with some of the other guests.
I did not stay at the party very long, but a few days later I called my friend and asked, "Who was the beautiful girl in the yellow dress and could I have her phone number?"
My friend said the girl was Novella Rawlins. She didn't know her, though, and would ask the people she came to the party with. She spoke to Novella and got permission to give me her home phone number. I called my wife-to-be, and she invited me to visit her at her home at 112th Street and Eighth Avenue in Harlem. I lived on 101st Street in East Harlem.
So our first date was actually a blind date for her since I hadn't stayed at the party long enough for her to notice me. We spent the evening at her house with her parents, her sister and her sister's boyfriend. Novella even cooked dinner -- a shrimp dish -- for me. I later found out that she had never cooked anything before in her life. She was 17 and I was 19.
We began seeing each other on a regular basis. Since we were both working and going to college, we didn't have a lot of money or free time. Our dates were usually spent driving around in my car and talking. When the World's Fair opened the following year, I took Novella to dinner at the Top of the Fair restaurant, now Terrace on the Park. In a way it was our first real date together.
We were married later that year, on Aug. 8, 1964, at New Jerusalem Holy Church in Manhattan. In 1974, we moved to Long Island. We have four children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild, with another on the way. Novella retired in 2008 as a teacher at the Davison Avenue Elementary School in Malverne. I retired as a detective lieutenant from the Housing Division of the NYPD in 1986. I am currently a police chaplain with the Nassau County Police Department.
We are pastors of Grace Cathedral International in Uniondale and constructed the Sure Foundation Child Care Center and the Grace Multi-Cultural Center, a place where diverse community programs meet, in Uniondale. In 2008 we were thrilled to attend President Barack Obama's first Inaugural Ball.
In August, we celebrated our 50th anniversary at a black-tie party with friends and family at Oheka Castle in Huntington. We renewed our vows, and Novella talked about the first time we spoke on the phone. She thought I sounded very intellectual and was expecting me to be "nerdy"-looking. She added, "You promised me nothing but gave me everything."