While trying to clean out years of accumulated papers in my home office, I came across a little story about my paternal grandfather and grandmother that appeared in the New York Daily News on the occasion of their 63rd wedding anniversary back in 1972. I thought it might be appropriate to post it as Fathers's Day approaches.
My mother died when I was only eleven and I and my two younger brothers then moved next door to live with our grandparents. BaBa, my grandfather, was 70 at the time and NaNa, my grandmother, just 58. I never could have realized how difficult this invasion must have been for them, and they never made us feel unwelcome or unwanted. Although the article speaks of wedded bliss, the death of my mother and the subsequent plight of their son, was just one of the many hardships and trials they had to endure during their long life. Nevertheless, the article is basically correct in its description of their long love affair. Among their many recipes, they did find the recipe for success as husband and wife, father and mother, and grandfather and grandmother.
Bernard Rabin, They Still Add Chapters to a 63- Year Love Story. NY Daily News, Wednesday, October 11, 1972, p. 47.
Take a lot of love and affection, mix it with mutual respect, add a generous dose of humility, sprinkle with humor and you have the prefect recipe for 63 years of wedded bliss.
“It seems like yesterday,” said a proud Joseph DeStefano, 92, of 49-13 69th St. , Woodside, as he kissed his beaming wife, Maria, 81. “We were married on Oct. 10, 1909, by Father John Milo in St. Mark’s R.C. Church, Bronx, and the day was just as beautiful as this day is.”
Their love story, Mrs. DeStefano recalled, began in their hometown, Agerola, a small village near Naples. They knew each other as children. When DeStefano came to the United States in 1896, they were separated but did not forget each other.
In the summer of 1909, DeStefano, then living in East Harlem, came to visit a former Agerola neighbor, who had two teenage daughters. His object was to meet and possibly court one of the daughters. But, unknown to him, Maria had come from Italy and was staying with the neighbor.
“No sooner did we meet again,” said Mrs. DeStefano, “than he told me he wanted to marry me. I had other boyfriends, but he insisted. In fact, he sent his mother to me that night with a huge basket of fruit and with a message that his intentions were honorable. “
“He said he’d give me three months to make up my mind and that he’d see me once a week. Instead, he came to my house every night, and before three months were up, I not only said I would marry him, but I did.”
Fruit and vegetable store owners for most of their married life, the DeStefano’s bought their present home in 1928. There they raised two daughters and a son, who in turn gave them five grandchildren.
Now retired and in good health, the couple spend their time watching television, gardening, baking, cooking favorite Old-World dishes and visiting their grandchildren.
Looking back on their 63 years together, the couple, holding hands said: We’re still lovebirds.”