Alfred Faragasso of Miller Place recalls the night he met his future wife, Rita.
My best friend, Bob, and I would frequent Herman’s ice cream parlor on Underhill Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I could only go on Friday and Saturday nights since I lived 20 minutes away and always had homework from Brooklyn Technical High School.
Bob was intent on setting me up with someone who lived near a girlfriend of his. One night in April 1954, minutes after we arrived at Herman’s, he elbowed me when he spotted the girls. “Which one?” I asked. “The tall one is Rita Frustaci,” he muttered. She was statuesque, 5-feet, 8-inches tall, and wearing a white stand-up-collar blouse over a midlength, very wide skirt (which she had made) that was supported, I found out later, by multiple, starched horsehair slips.
Her jet-black hair was pulled back from her flawless face — but it was her lips, bright red, and that smile. I was dumbstruck. I shrank into my chair.
“What’s wrong?” Bob asked.
“She’s stunning!” I said. “Why would she want to go out with me?”
We did meet that night and occasionally thereafter, repeating the routine of idle talk over cherry Cokes or coffee, then going our separate ways. She was 15; I was 17.
One drizzly Friday night, Bob and I arrived soaked at Herman’s; we never carried umbrellas. After combing our hair in the men’s room, I spotted Rita and her friend shaking out their umbrellas at the front door. Bob motioned for them to join us at a table near the jukebox.
Rita couldn’t stay too late. She was going to Hicksville in the morning to visit a cousin. When she and her friend went to the ladies’ room, Bob said he had “a plan.” I should ask Rita to share her umbrella with me on the way home and ask to borrow it after I dropped her off. I could see her again when I returned it. I lived on Dean Street in Crown Heights five blocks from her home on Park Place.
When Rita returned she smiled at me and said, “Would you like to share my umbrella on your way home? You pass my house anyway … right?” I gasped, “Walk you home? Ahh, Err, Ohh,” and finally, “Yeah, sure, now?!”
Outside I held the umbrella over her as we walked. Huddled together, I sensed her perfume and wondered whether she was snuggling up to me or I was snuggling up to her. We laughed out loud trying to decide whether to step over or go around the puddles and cracked sidewalks. I even brushed her hand a few times as we walked.
As I ushered her up the steps of her stoop, she smiled her lovely smile and insisted I use her umbrella the rest of my way home; I could return it … later. I did remember to ask for her phone number, finally!
We married July 4, 1959, at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in South Ozone Park, Queens.
Rita was a model for an international fashion house until we started our family. I worked in the aerospace industry and taught at Stony Brook University after retirement.
Our three sons married three wonderful women. We are blessed with four loving grandchildren. Sadly, we lost our oldest son in 2016.
After 65 years, Rita remains my greatest joy and my strength, always mindful of my needs and those of our family and friends. She is the most incredible woman I have ever met. I still cannot believe that she chose me! I thank God for her.
— With Virginia Dunleavy
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