Barry Berger of Coram talks about meeting his wife, Rosalie.
I grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, with my parents and a younger brother. My parents played a friendly poker game every month with their friends. One couple was Ida and Ben August. They were aunt and uncle to Rosalie, my future bride.
One night, my father bragged to his card-playing friends about a successful business trip I had just made to upstate Buffalo and Syracuse. I was a salesman for a line of insecticides in 1958, and that trip had actually been a turning point in my career. Shortly afterward, Rosalie’s parents visited her aunt and uncle, Ida and Ben. Half in jest, Rosalie’s mother asked them if they knew of a nice boy for their daughter. After a moment of thought, Ida piped up with an enthusiastic “yes” and offered my name. That’s how our life together started.
I called Rosalie, who lived in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and planned a date. We went to the Paramount Theatre in Downtown Brooklyn and saw “The Defiant Ones.” We enjoyed a snack afterward at Junior’s on Flatbush Avenue. The date seemed to go very well. Our next date was put on hold because Rosalie had a previously planned date for the week after she met me.
On our second date we went bowling, and Rosalie purposely lost the third game after winning the first two. She still says to this day that she didn’t want to kill a good thing because of a bowling match.
We eventually started dating. We got engaged four months later on Valentine’s Day 1959. I bought her a big oversized card. When she opened it, out popped a little man on a spring with an engagement ring attached to his belly button. She got all excited and said yes.
Rosalie’s mother was worried for months about planning a December wedding because of the risk of bad weather. Nevertheless, we were married at the Aperion Manor on Kings Highway in Brooklyn on Dec. 19, 1959 — and had beautiful weather that day.
The next day, a snowstorm blew into New York, leaving 25 inches of snow on the ground. Rosalie and I were honeymooning at the Algiers Hotel in Miami by then.
(In a twist of fate — and faith — my best man and brother Mel and Rosalie’s maid of honor, her sister, Joyce, married each other 40 years later, after the deaths of their respective spouses.)
Rosalie and I moved into an apartment in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn where we lived for 10 years before moving out to a home in Nesconset. We lived there for 48 years until recently moving to a condo in Coram.
We have been blessed with a son and a daughter and a wonderful grandson. Our son is a gastroenterologist, and our daughter was a speech language pathologist before becoming a revenue cycle and operations consultant at a Boston company.
Rosalie was a full-time housewife, mother and gourmet cook until going into sales in the health and beauty aids business in 1998. I worked for Revlon for 25 years, starting as a salesman and working my way up to a vice president. We both retired in 2008.
Rosalie and I have enjoyed many Caribbean cruise vacations, getting Royal Caribbean's "diamond status" with our 10th one. I celebrated my 85th birthday in September, and Rosalie and I celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary last week with a small family party at my favorite restaurant, Mario’s in Hauppauge.
It’s been a wonderful 60 years, and I would do it all over again.
- With Ann Donahue-Smukler
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