Elizabeth “Beth” Zalackas of Franklin Square recalls her first encounter with future husband Mike.
One day in February 1973, a good friend of mine called to say he was coming over to hang out. We both went to H. Frank Carey High School in our Franklin Square neighborhood. He was also my boyfriend’s best friend, so when the doorbell rang I was expecting to see both of them.
I remember the moment like it was yesterday: I opened the door, briefly looked at my friend and then looked up and saw the most beautiful hazel eyes attached to the most handsome man I had ever seen! I’m 5 feet tall and this stranger was 6-foot-2. I just stood there with butterflies in my stomach that left me paralyzed.
My friend said, “I hope you don’t mind that I brought Mike with me.” Holy cow, I didn’t mind, I was smitten. He introduced me — I was Beth Ruschin back then — and walked into the house to say hello to my parents.
Mike looked very shy. He shuffled his feet a few times and finally uttered, “I’m Mike Zalackas. I go to Sewanhaka High School.” No other words were exchanged, but something profound happened to us.
We joined my parents and our friend. I found out that, like me, Mike was 17 and in his senior year at school. He also lived in Franklin Square. As they were leaving, he asked if I was going to the Friday night dance at St. Catherine’s Church. I said I was and he replied, “I’ll see you then.”
And, as awful as this sounds, I broke up with my boyfriend the next day! Fortunately, he was looking to move on as well.
I saw Mike at the dance and a few days later he called me for our first date. My parents weren’t as taken with Mike. Dad said, “Zalackas . . . is that Greek?” I said, “No Dad, he is Lithuanian.” And he said: “Where the heck is that?” This became a standard family joke.
Over the next few weeks we spent a lot of time together. Then, sadly, both our fathers passed away very suddenly. Mike and I were there to support each other, which solidified our relationship, and we started going steady.
Our senior proms fell on the same day, June 9, which was my 18th birthday, so we decided to go to my prom. Afterward, we went to Jones Beach. While we were walking along the shoreline under a full moon, Mike said, “I’m going to marry you someday, Elizabeth.”
Well, someday happened on a spectacularly sunny day on July 2, 1977. We were married at The Church of St. Anne in Garden City, followed by a reception at Salisbury Restaurant in Eisenhower Park and a honeymoon in Key West, Florida.
We have a very happy life. Mike works for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as a train operator on the R subway line. I am an administrative assistant for the U.S. Postal Service in Melville. We have three terrific children who are happy, healthy and successful — a parent’s dream.
My goddaughter’s wedding was held on our 40th anniversary last month. At the reception, the DJ announced our anniversary and we danced to our wedding song, Perry Como’s recording of “And I Love You So.”
Every so often I catch sight of my husband, see those gorgeous hazel eyes twinkling and smiling at me and get butterflies in my stomach!
— With Virginia Dunleavy