Frank Calandra of Hauppauge recalls his pursuit to win the heart of his future wife, Mary.
I was 13 years old in 1951 when I caught a glimpse of a girl at Levittown’s East Village Green and was immediately attracted to her.
I learned that her name was Mary Brown. She was 15 and had recently moved to the neighborhood from Woodside, Queens, with her father. Her mother, who had wanted the family to move to Levittown, had passed away the previous year.
My father died when I was 8, and my mother later remarried. In 1949, we moved from Brooklyn to Levittown.
I’d see Mary on the Farmingdale High School bus. We’d talk and joke, but nothing developed between us. There was still hope though, since she always perked up when I was around and laughed at my silly antics.
Mary graduated in 1954 and became a keypunch operator and secretary at O.E. McIntyre in Hicksville. I was 16 then, and we’d occasionally go on a date. In 1955, Mary came to my graduation ceremony and at last I could feel she was my girlfriend.
That year, I enlisted in the Air Force and attended electronics school at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, becoming a radar technician. I was then assigned to the 688th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron at Amarillo Air Force Base in Texas, where I maintained and repaired radar sets.
Mary and I continued writing to each other, and during that time her father passed away, so she was now living alone. In May 1957, I called Mary and made some logical suggestions like, “I’m here, you’re there, so why not get married?” She said, “Yes.”
A month later, I came home on leave and we were married on June 9, 1957, at St. Martin of Tours in Bethpage, followed by a fun wedding reception at the Levittown Firehouse. Our honeymoon was spent driving back to the base in Amarillo.
When my military service was completed in 1959, we resettled in Selden. With Mary’s encouragement and help, I received my bachelor’s degree in engineering electronics in 1967 from Hofstra University in Hempstead. We then moved to our present house in Hauppauge. Our four children still praise Mary for being the best example of a mother and for what they’ve learned and used in raising their own children.
Mary worked as a distribution coordinator for PennySaver in the 1970s and then for Hallmark Greeting Cards from 1990 to 2000 as a marketing clerk, setting up displays at stores in Nassau, Suffolk and New York City.
I worked at AIL Systems in Deer Park for 40 years and retired in 2000 as engineering manager in electronic warfare. I then incorporated FJC Consulting Services and worked as a consultant with MITEQ in Hauppauge until 2012.
For our 50th anniversary, we took a cruise to the Bahamas with our family, all 24 of us, consisting of our children, son-in-law, three daughters-in-law, 13 grandchildren and our great-grandchild, (two great-grandchildren were not yet born). We’re all still talking about it. Our children, in turn, sent us on a cruise through the Panama Canal.
This year, we had a family dinner party at Butterfields in Hauppauge to celebrate our 60th anniversary.
Mary and I are still going strong. She remains my favorite audience, always laughing at my antics. I often express my feelings to her by paraphrasing the Barry White song: “You’re my first, my last, my everything.”
— With Virginia Dunleavy