A few months ago I posted this photo when I told you I was celebrating my wedding anniversary.
In the post, I mentioned that someday I would write a post telling you how I met my husband Ed. It was a meeting that was a bit out of the ordinary and one in which fate played a big part.
Now that things have settled down for me after the move to SC, I had time to search for old photos and letters so I could write the post. Note, I mentioned letters. These are the most important part of this story.
So here is the post many of you have been emailing me and asking me to write ASAP, some of my best friends who I met years after I was married don’t even know the full details of how Ed and I met.
It is not a short story, but one that I can guarantee has a happy ending. Go fill up your coffee mug…. here it goes….
How I Met My Husband Ed
I met my husband Ed for the first time on May 7, 1983 aboard a US Navy ship, the USS Arkansas CGN-41.
But before continuing this story, I have to back up a little before that day in May so you can get the full scope of how I met Ed.
5 months earlier, these two put on their matchmaking hats. The picture shows my best friend, Steph from college and her (at the time) naval officer boyfriend (now her husband), Bob. He was on the ship with Ed, that was deployed for 6 months out in the Mediterranean.
Steph called me early in January 1983. We had been out of college for 2 years. I was working in retail display in the Philadelphia area and living with my parents. She was in grad school and living in Virginia Beach. We chatted about the holidays and other stuff, but the real reason she called was that she wanted to ask me if I would like to write to one of Bob’s friends who was another officer on the ship.
She went on to say what a great guy he was and that the officers were the best group of guys ever. I told her no way was I going to write to someone I didn’t know. She insisted I write down his name and the ship’s mailing address. I did, but had no intention of writing to him. I stuck the address in my desk drawer and forgot about it.
After about two weeks and a date with a guy who was nice, but not for me, I found the address and thought, “Why not”? “I have nothing to lose.”
So I put pen to paper and wrote him a letter telling him a little bit about myself. I put it in the mail and figured I would never hear from him.
A week or so went by and when I got home from work one evening, there was a letter addressed to me on USS Arkansas CGN-41 stationery. I immediately opened it up and read the letter. Wow! I read and re-read it a few times. That night I wrote back to him.
Another week passed and I got another letter, and then another letter, and another letter. On some days I would get 3, 4, and 5 letters at a time since the letters were coming off of a deployed navy ship they had to route through an FPO box in NYC first. They would get hung up there and I would get a few letters at a time, many out of sync.
We were corresponding a few times a week. My mom and younger sister who was still in high school at the time were intrigued by all the letters and postcards from port stops the ship made. When I would get home from work the first thing they would say as I walked in the door was… “you got 4 letters today or you got a post card or you only got one”. They were as excited as I was.
We did send photos of ourselves to each other. Here are two that I found. One of Ed in Italy and my college graduation photo. We also spoke on the phone once, it was a little awkward since the reception was not great.
After writing back and forth for about two months, he wrote and asked me if I would like to meet his parents. I had not even met him yet since he was out at sea. His parents lived in Baltimore and were as intrigued by our corresponding as my family was. I agreed to spend a weekend at their home in suburban Baltimore.
I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and put them in a small picnic hamper that I had lined in a madras print as a thank-you for having me. I drove down to meet them. When I got to their house they greeted me with open arms and dinner. The next day we went to Annapolis to see a lacrosse game, but it got rained out. So instead we went site-seeing. I left on Sunday morning. They were gracious and didn’t make me feel awkward at all.
The weeks went by and the amount of letters we were writing to each other doubled. I still have every one. When it was getting closer to May when the ship was coming back to Norfolk, Steph and Ed’s parents were making plans for us to all be at the pier to greet the ship when it came in. I soon learned that this is a big event with bands playing and families waiting on the pier to hug their loved ones that they haven’t seen in 6 months.
Here is where I can get back to that day in May when I actually met Ed.
I bought a new dress and handbag. I went with Ed’s parents and met Steph on the pier. The morning started out nice, but it soon started to rain, and not just lightly, it poured and everyone waiting for the ship got wet. I got soaked, the dye from my new cloth handbag ran onto my new, now wet dress. My hair got wet and all the curls went limp. Not the way I wanted to look when I first met this guy Ed who I had been writing letters to for the past 4 1/2 months.
The rain stopped just as the ship came into view. When the ship arrived, the family members were allowed to go on board. We were escorted to the Officers Ward Room for lunch. All the officers were there along with their spouses and children. Everyone was hugging and crying happy tears to be reunited. Everyone there knew that I was the girl who was going to meet Lt. Henkler, but he was nowhere in sight.
Since he was the ship’s engineer on duty that morning, he had to make sure that everything on the ship was shut down, a process that can take a long time. 2 hours long. Lunch was served and cleaned up, but no one left to go home. They all waited because they wanted to see our reaction to each other. It was a little stressful.
Since I was so wet, I was given a big bulky sweater to wear to stay warm. I was not looking my best. Every time a door would open in the ward room, the room got quiet and everyone would look towards the door and then at me. Finally Ed walked through the door and everyone cheered and clapped when we looked at each other and kissed. I will never forget that moment.
Then everyone left except Ed, myself and his parents. Since Ed was still on duty, he could not leave the ship for another 24 hours. His parents and I stayed for about 30 minutes and then left and went to Ed’s house which was in Newport News. I had to wait another 24 hours after that initial meeting on the ship when he finally was off duty and came in the door to his house.
His parents left the next day. I left a few days after that because I had to go to work. During this time, Ed asked me if I wanted to go to his best friend’s wedding later in May in Pensacola, FL.
I said OK and we flew down to the wedding. This picture was taken at that wedding which was about 10 days after we met in person. We both felt that we knew much more about each other since we wrote about everything, more than we would have talked about if we were dating.
He also told me that the ship’s port was being moved to San Fransisco and he would have to move in July to California. He wanted to know if I would move out there with him. It seemed silly after we just met not to be together so we could get to know each other even better. I figured, why not? When I told my parents this, they were not on board. Ed was coming to meet them the following weekend. After my parents met him though, they changed their minds and gave me their blessing.
I quit my job and went back to Virginia to help Ed pack up his house so we could move to San Francisco. During this week, Ed proposed. Of course I said yes since we had both talked about how we learned so much about each other through our letters. We were very open and candid about everything.
It all was happening so quickly, but all felt so right. Even my friends thought it was so right for me…fate at work. I am one that listens to that little voice in my head. It is always right. I did what it was telling me, I didn’t hesitate and took the leap.
The trek to San Francisco took 10 days. Since Ed was going to drive the moving truck with his dog Woody in tow and I was driving my car, we needed someone to drive his car. His mother volunteered. I was not too happy about this, but in hindsight she was a blast. She really did help out a lot until she bought a puppy at an interstate gas station in Indiana. Oh and did I tell you, we didn’t stay in hotels… we decided to save money and camp…in a tent! What an adventure! That is a whole other post. :-)
Neither Ed or I had ever been camping before. I did in Girl Scouts when I was a kid, but that was not really camping, camping. I remember a few days before the trip we went to Sears and bought a 4-man tent, a camp stove, sleeping bags and everything we thought we would need to set up in a campground. We arrived at our first campground at dusk. We needed to use a flashlight to read the instructions on how to put up the tent. Place pole A into slot B on pole C…. It was comical. We did get the tent up, cooked a meal and made it through that first night. By the end of the trip we were camping pros. Even with 2 dogs, 2 cars, a 24 foot moving truck, Ed’s mom, along with Ed and I, we made it. It was quite a trip.
The day after we arrived in California we moved into a house in Oakland. Ed and his mom flew back to the east coast the next day. Ed had to do the quick turnaround so he could get back on the ship to bring it from Norfolk to San Francisco. While he was gone, I found a display job at Macy’s in San Francisco and set up the house we were renting. I also got to know Woody, Ed’s dog a whole lot better. It was just the two of us for 2 weeks until Ed got back to the San Francisco area.
While we lived in Oakland, my mom and sisters were planning our wedding. All I did from my end was buy my wedding dress. My mom did everything. I was happy to let her do her thing. I don’t think I ever thanked her enough.
We got married on December 3rd in 1983 at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD where Ed went to college.
I remember when I was 12 years old, my family took a trip to Annapolis and toured the Naval Academy. While we were taking the tour of the chapel, I remember holding my dad’s hand and looking up at him and telling him… “I am going to get married here someday.” He just looked down at me and smiled.
Turns out…it was fate. I did get married there and my dad remembered me telling him that. :-)
It was 7 months after we met. It was a late afternoon wedding….it was magical.
If you have ever been to a Naval Academy or military wedding, then you know the bride if she is not in the military gets a blessing (whack) from the last officer in the sword arch. He is the one who gently passes his sword over her backside and says…“Welcome to to the Navy”.
For our honeymoon, we bought 21 day passes on Eastern Airlines. Each pass cost $530 and we could go anywhere we wanted in the US and the Virgin Islands and to as many places as we wanted within 21 days of the start of the first trip. We used the pass to fly from California to Annapolis for our wedding, then to Bermuda, then DisneyWorld and then to Chapel Hill, NC to look for a house since Ed was going to start a 3 year shore tour there while getting his Master’s Degree.
After that we lived in Durham, North Carolina for 3 years. This photo was taken at our first Halloween party there. Ed was a Ghost-Buster and I was a ghost. We were so young!
Ed left the Navy soon after getting his Masters, but our matchmaking friend, Bob made his career in the Navy. Many years later we went to visit him on a ship where he was the captain. Without him and his wife, Steph, our story would have never happened.
When my youngest daughter was home for a visit a few months ago, we watched a romantic movie on TV. She hasn’t met that special someone yet. She loves romantic books and movies. After watching the movie with her, she told me that she wants to find a guy just like the girls do in the movies. I responded to her that life isn’t really like the movies with a handsome guy sweeping you off your feet. She looked at me and said…“but you got it.”
Oh my goodness… I had forgotten. I guess I did get the romantic movie script and lived happily ever after…
We are still traveling, not so much camping in tents anymore, but loving each other and life for 39 years now and counting…
How did you meet your husband or spouse?