Patricia Regan of Garden City talks about meeting her husband, Tom, while helping him with his college schedule.
It was September 1960, and my name was Patricia Okulski then. I was 19 years old and lived with my family in Garden City Park. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I was working a desk on Registration Day at Queens College in Flushing. Students would go from line to line trying to get courses they needed at times that fit their schedule. A colleague asked me a favor: Could I get Tom Regan, a 19-year-old Floral Park guy, into an art class so he could get to his job on time? I was able to help him, and we met briefly.
When classes started, Tom and I were in the same art class. Tom thanked me for my help and told me one of his fraternity brothers needed a date for a beer racket (that is, a fraternity party where they serve beer) and asked if was I interested. I told him yes.
The night of the event, Tom, who was able to use his family’s car on weekends, was picking five of us up one by one. I lived only three miles from him, so I was the first to be picked up and last to be dropped off. It gave us an opportunity to get acquainted. After that, we had many long and enjoyable phone calls that led to our first date at Jones Beach. When he brought me home that night, he kissed me good night. I remember going inside afterward and telling my mom I liked the way he kissed. We started dating.
Both of us belonged to Queens College’s Newman Club, a Catholic organization that, among other activities, performs community services. We went to Mexico City for six weeks with a group of students in the summer of our junior year. Tom worked mixing cement for a recreation center under construction at a church. I volunteered at a women’s hospital and worked with poor women — both young mothers and their babies, and very sick women dying of cancer.
Tom gave me his Alpha Lambda Alpha fraternity pin in our junior year, and we got engaged on Christmas 1962. We planned to be married around Easter 1964, but we found an apartment sooner and moved our plans up to Thanksgiving weekend.
My mom was worried what people would think, but I told her in nine months they’ll find out they were wrong. We were married Nov. 30, 1963, at St. Hedwig’s Church in Floral Park and had our reception at Club Jericho in Mineola.
Tom was a language teacher in the New York City School system, and I was an elementary school teacher in the Plainedge district. I became pregnant in 1965 and left teaching to become a stay-at-home mom, eventually raising our three sons, Tommy, Brian and David. I returned to teaching when David was 7. David died in a line-of-duty accident as a New York City police officer when he was 27.
While raising the boys, we very active with the New Hyde Park Family Campers and had many wonderful camping trips to places both near and far. We all have wonderful memories of those days.
When Tom and I retired from teaching, we became certified chaplains, working in hospice, hospitals and extended-care facilities. Tom was the interim director of pastoral care at NYU Winthrop Hospital for a short while.
We have four grandchildren and love spending time with them on Long Island and in Boston and Florida.
— With Ann Donahue-Smukler
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