Pat Hetzel, of Levittown, recalls the first time she met her future husband, Walter.
On May 6, 1961, I was at my friend’s 16th birthday party at her home in Bayside, Queens. I lived in Whitestone, but we both went to Bayside High School.
As the guests started to arrive, I noticed this well-dressed fellow walking down the stairs with a record player in his hands. He was providing the music for the evening.
My friend said, “Pat, this is Walter Hetzel. He lives in the neighborhood. Walter, this is Pat Wood.” For some reason I felt like I had just met the man of my dreams. Walter asked me to dance, and as we were dancing, he handed me a line: “I bet you a nickel I can kiss you without touching you.” Then he kissed me and handed me the nickel. I was 14 and he was 17.
A few days later, he called me for a date. My parents wouldn’t allow me to go to the movies with him in his car. They told him to park it in front of our house and said we had to take the bus. This went on for years as we continued to date, but we’d occasionally sneak rides in his car.
Then in 1965, Walter was drafted into the Army. I was now 18 and he was 21. He asked permission from my parents to marry me. They gave it but asked us to wait until he finished his military service. We agreed and became engaged before he left for basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Every Sunday, his parents and I would drive there to see him. Walter was then assigned to Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas, before shipping out to Korea with the 44th Artillery. He served as a dog handler and then as a courier.
We missed each other so much that he and I bought tape recorders and mailed taped messages just to hear each other’s voices. After 13 months in Korea, Walter was stationed in Minnesota for five months.
He completed his military service in June 1967 and we were married on Sept. 2, 1967, at St. Luke’s Church in Whitestone. Our reception was at Astoria Manor. Unfortunately, my grandmother died on our wedding day. We canceled our honeymoon but eventually went to Niagara Falls, where we fell in love all over again. In 1970, we bought our home in Levittown.
Walter retired in 1995 after 25 years with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He was a conductor on the No. 7 subway line. He then worked as a record manager for the law firm of Certilman, Balin, Adler & Hyman in East Meadow until 2013. I retired that year as secretary at the Presbyterian Church of Levittown. Walter now volunteers as a defensive driving instructor for AARP. We both are Eucharistic ministers at St. Raphael’s Church in East Meadow, where I also volunteer at the food pantry.
For our 50th anniversary this year, we are planning a cruise to Bermuda. Walter and I have been on 25 cruises since retiring. We have taken our three children, two sons-in-law, daughter-in-law and six grandchildren with us on three of those trips.
We are very happy and as much in love today as we were 56 years ago when we met at the party.
With Virginia Dunleavy