Looking for love in all the right places

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Residents at Job Haines Home who discussed meeting their future spouses are, from left, seated, Pat Kopeck and Joan Slavik, and standing, Helen Lucking, Eleanor ‘Ellie’ Fraser and Maureen Sheridan.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, a number of Job Haines Home residents sat down this week and talked about how they had met their husbands.

Joan Slavik knew her future husband, Paul, as the boy who lived down the street.

“We went to the playground behind my house,” she said. “He played basketball and jacks against my sister, Edna. He also played softball. He was into sports.”

Nothing really happened until her junior year in high school, when they began dating. But Slavik had to quit school in her junior year to care for her mother.

“She was blind,” she said.

Slavik worked in her brother-in-law’s soda shop, where the high school students used to congregate.

Paul would also come in and help by washing the floors at night.

“My sister would give him a milkshake,” Slavik said.

They were dating three years when Paul joined the Army and was sent to Iceland. He was there for two years.

“We were together, I guess, for a good four years and got married,” Slavik said. “He was a great guy, the best man you could have and the best father.”

They got involved in Kearny politics and worked for the mayor. Paul was even asked to run for mayor, but he declined because it would be time away from his children.

She never knew her husband to be sick, Slavik said, but one day, after shopping, he felt a pain in the back of his calf. He went to the hospital and learned he had a blood clot. When he got home from the hospital, he began to lose weight.

“He was losing weight something terrible,” Slavik said.

Paul returned to the hospital. The last time they spoke, he asked his wife to have the nurse give him a sleeping pill.

“The nurse never put it to his lips and his eyes bulged and he was gone,” she said. “I’m glad he died fast and didn’t suffer.”

Paul was an ironworker and had worked on the World Trade Center and the George Washington Bridge.

“He worked all over,” she said of Paul, who died three years ago, after 61 years of marriage.

They had four children.

Pat Kopeck, who grew up on Broad Terrace in Bloomfield, married the boy next door.

“He was seven years older than me,” she said. “I was 26 when I got married.”

Kopeck, a Bloomfield High School graduate, was a housewife, and her husband, William, worked for New Jersey Bell. Kopeck said she really did not have a Valentine’s Day story. The couple had six children, one who died at 4.

Helen Lucking met her future husband, Joe, on a golfing date.

“He was my best friend’s neighbor,” she said. “He was an excellent golfer and I was lousy. It was my charm that got him. We got to know each other and it developed quite quickly. In another year, we were married. He was four years younger than me. He was good, good to the end.”

The couple had two children.

Maureen Sheridan, who was a three-time all-Ireland ballroom dance champion over three consecutive years, met her future husband, Edgar, at an Arthur Murray’s Dance Studio in Newark on Halsey Street, where she was a dance instructor.

“I hated my marriage name, because I had to spell it out to everyone,” she said. “It was K-R-E-U-T-Z-B-E-R-G. So I started using my maiden name again.”

When Edgar first came into the dance studio to take lessons, Sheridan and another instructor eyed him.

“We were on break and he walked in and I said that I’d like to teach him,” Sheridan said. “And my friend said the same thing.”

But Sheridan was not assigned to be Edgar’s instructor.

“On Friday nights, the dance studio would have a social,” she said. “And the studio manager would get the instructors together and tell us that the men were only learning to dance and were shy. The manager always told us to make sure we got their fannies on the floor.”

At the socials, Sheridan said students danced with their instructors. But after Edgar became a little more confident as a dancer, he asked her to dance.

“And he asked me out for a date,” she said. “But if we got caught fraternizing with the students, it was instant dismissal. He thought that was a terrible rule. But he was on to me and I went out with him.”

Edgar told her that if she was fired, he would demand his money back. Sheridan told him he would not get it back. Edgar told her that he knew good lawyers, and she told him it would not matter.

“He had a very good job,” she said. “He was editor-in-chief of the New York Daily News.”

The couple married eight months after their first date and they did not dance together very much after Arthur Murray’s. They had no children.

“He was a Broadway man and liked the shows,” Sheridan said. “We saw every show in the ’60s and ’70s.”

And that was how these ladies found love.