Walter Ryan of Port Jefferson recalls a series of exciting events when he met future wife Joan.
I met Joan Fanara in May 1968 at a tavern on Andrews Avenue in Wyandanch. I was 24, a volunteer firefighter and was with some friends from the Wyandanch Fire Company.
Joan was sitting at the bar and I struck up a conversation with her. She was 20 and beautiful. Her family moved from Bayside, Queens, to Wheatley Heights when she was 16. She graduated from Half Hollow Hills High School. I was born in Brooklyn and moved to Wyandanch when I was 14.
Later that evening, I was playing pool with the tavern owner. As we finished playing, three guys walked in and began threatening him. I pushed them out the door using a pool cue. One of them came back with a knife. I went after him but his friend pulled him outside and they left. Not long after that the fire department sirens went off.
My friends and I got into my car to get to the firehouse. I made a U-turn on Andrews Avenue, a one-way street, which caused me to go the wrong way. As we sped away, someone set off a cherry bomb nearby.
A police officer, believing we had robbed the tavern, pulled us over and walked to my side of the car with his gun drawn. We identified ourselves and he let us go.
Joan and I kept running into each other over the next few weeks at different places in the area. One evening, at the local VFW hall, I noticed another guy talking to her, which led me to ask her out on a date.
Our first date was in June 1968. We saw “Gone With the Wind” at the Syosset Theatre and I fell asleep. We continued dating, and two weeks later I asked for her hand in marriage.
On March 2, 1969, we were wed at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Wyandanch, followed by a reception at the Narragansett Inn in Lindenhurst. We had just put money down on a house, so we took a short honeymoon to Mystic, Connecticut, and closed on our house when we returned.
In 1968, I joined the Suffolk County Police Department. I was shot while on duty in 1972. After being released from the hospital, my wife was able to continue treating the wound at home. We had a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old baby at the time. I retired on disability in 1977 due to residual problems from the wound.
I then worked for an insurance investigation agency until 1984, when Joan and I opened our own business, Ryan Investigative Agency, working with insurance companies, businesses and lawyers. We have been semiretired since 2016.
Joan has a rare blood type that is beneficial to babies and regularly donates blood. We both still bowl together in a league. I also play indoor soccer with college-age men and women. I enjoy singing and sang in doo-wop groups, the church choir and with a barbershop chorus.
We are blessed with three children, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. Recently, we had a celebratory dinner for our 49th anniversary with our best man, a lifelong friend, and his wife at Lombardi’s Italian Restaurant in Middle Island. When we tell people about the night we met, Joan jokingly says she must have been crazy to go out with me.
— With Virginia Dunleavy