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Love Story: 71 years later, celebrating right turn with ‘Lefty’

Alma and Philip Stanziola of Baldwin celebrated their

Alma and Philip Stanziola of Baldwin celebrated their 71st anniversary in May. Credit: Stanziola Family

Alma Stanziola of Baldwin recalls the memorable first meeting with her future husband, Philip.


I met Philip Stanziola on July 28, 1941. I was Alma Sorrentino. I was 15, and he was 18. On this particularly hot night, I was baby-sitting my three younger siblings. Against my parents’ instructions, I took them outside to escape the heat. We sat on a bench along Ocean Parkway promenade diagonally across from our house in Brooklyn.

Suddenly, a group of boys surrounded us. One boy, Phil, persistently asked me my name and where I lived. I warned him to leave me alone or I would slap him. When he leaned in closer, I did just that and immediately left with my brother and sisters. Undeterred, he followed me home.

Every night for a week, I would see him across the street looking at my house. I decided to tell my parents about him. My father demanded to meet Phil and walked outside with me.

He told my father he was from Borough Park. His nickname was “Lefty.” He was an usher at Loew’s Metropolitan Theatre in Downtown Brooklyn. He and his friends took walks in the evenings, singing and flirting with girls. Dad liked Phil right away and allowed us to date — but only when chaperoned by my older sister. It took Phil months before he was able to kiss me. That’s when he thought to bring a friend along to distract my sister.

When World War II began, Phil was drafted into the Army Air Force. While stationed in Tennessee, he wrote to say he was shipping out to the South Pacific and wouldn’t be able to come home before leaving the states. I was devastated and began a novena to St. Ann at my church. A week later, I saw a handsome man in uniform turn the corner of my block. It was Phil! I was overjoyed, but I couldn’t see him that evening. It was the last night of the nine-prayer novena. I had to go to church because my prayers were answered! I returned home later to find Phil sitting on the stoop. Again, he was undeterred.

He served as an airplane crewman with the 5th Air Force, 78th Airdrome Squadron, in New Guinea and returned home in November 1945. He was honorably discharged in January 1946.

We began making plans for our future. I was a file clerk at National Lead Co. in Manhattan. Phil started a career in the newspaper business at the World Telegram (later the World Telegram and Sun) as a copy boy, then photo printer and eventually photographer.

We married on May 24, 1947, my 21st birthday, and lived in Brooklyn until 1962, when we bought our home in Baldwin. We have three beautiful daughters, a son-in-law, five wonderful grandchildren and are blessed with five great-grandchildren.

I retired in 1985 as clerical assistant to the housewares department manager at Abraham & Straus in Hempstead. Phil retired in 1990 as a photo lab manager at the New York Daily News. He had a successful career as a newspaper photographer and is recognized in his field. Many of his photos are in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. In his wallet he carries our wedding photo and a photo of him sitting on a bed with Marilyn Monroe — taken while on assignment.

In May, our daughters took us out to dinner for our 71st anniversary. Who would have guessed that our wonderful life would begin with a slap in the face? God is good.

— With Virginia Dunleavy


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