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Frank and Joan Nedelka of Garden City: Married for 67 years, died days apart

Frank and Joan Nedelka were married for 67

Frank and Joan Nedelka were married for 67 years and lived in Garden City for 56. They died within a week of each other.  Credit: Howard Schnapp, Jim Nedelka

Frank and Joan Nedelka enjoyed an enduring love for each other, but they were not always the kind of couple that expressed their affection publicly. That changed recently, the couple’s three sons said.

“They were very much in love,” said son Jim Nedelka, 65, of Manhattan. “In the last several months, my parents were not shy about holding each other’s hands in public or telling each other that they loved each other loud enough that my brothers and I could hear. It was fascinating to watch that guard come down.”

The couple, who were married for 67 years and lived in Garden City for 56, died within a week of each other. Joan, 89, died April 5 of complications from COVID-19 at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola. Frank, 92, died April 11 after a brief illness at Sunharbor Manor rehab facility in Roslyn Heights, the family said.

Frank was not aware of Joan’s passing, Jim Nedelka said.

“We never got a chance to tell my dad because he was slipping,” he said. “It was considered best not to tell him, because it would have been horrible. Mom and dad, after 70 years together, including dating and marriage, were apart for maybe seven days, and that was it.”

The two met at Hunter College in Manhattan in the late 1940s after Frank had returned from serving in the Army in post-World War II Germany. The couple, who grew up in New York City, were married on Dec. 21, 1952, in Brooklyn and moved to Hempstead. They bought a house in West Hempstead in 1955 and moved to Garden City in December 1964.

“He was a very fine gentleman,” said Frank’s brother, the Rev. Jerome J. Nedelka, 82, of Miller Place. "He was very down to earth. Even when we didn’t agree with one another occasionally, it never lasted longer than the conversation,” said the retired Episcopal priest.

Frank worked for nearly 50 years as a financial analyst, and Joan spent 25 years as an elementary school teacher at Chestnut Street School in West Hempstead and John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Great Neck. She also mentored student-teachers at New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury and Adelphi University in Garden City. 

Frank was instrumental in the development of the Mineola Volunteer Ambulance Corps in the late 1970s, helping his son, Bruce, refine the concept and present it to investors and local politicians.

In their later years, Joan served as president of the William Bradford Turner American Legion Auxiliary Unit 265 in Garden City. Frank served as commander of the same unit. The two helped raise scholarship money, assisted in the rejuvenation of American flags in Garden City and improved outreach with the Northport VA Medical Center. 

In addition to Jim and Jerome Nedelka, Frank and Joan are survived by sons Larry of Garden City and Bruce of Virginia; Frank’s brother John of Connecticut; and seven grandchildren. They were buried at Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn on April 17, Jim Nedelka said.