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"Enduring Friendship / Parallel Lives, Part 1" posted September 22, 2005 at 02:19 PM


Recently, my niece Adrienne emailed me about her move to New York City, and she mentioned that she ran into friends from her college days at Ohio State University. Amazing how friendships endure even when life sends friends off into different parts of the world. Such is my friendship with Anthony Piana.

Anthony and I became fast friends while we were stationed in Illesheim Germany, as peacetime medics--he as a dental assistant, and I as an x-ray technician. We had choice duty, since we were stationed at a base clinic, rather than a field unit. Anthony is a born leader, a smooth talker, and always managed to get everyone to see things his way. Born and raised in Queens, New York, he seemed more worldly than I, who was raised in Youngstown, Ohio. Our common denominator was our Italian heritage, of which we were both extremely proud. We shared everything. At month's end, when we were broke, we bought and shared a loaf of bread to make mayonnaise or catsup sandwiches. We even bought a car together, a Fiat, from the Germain civilian dentist who worked in the clinic. In 1961, Anthony was rotated back to the States for discharge and in April of that year I also was discharged. Each went home, he to New York, and I to Youngstown. We promised to keep in touch, and we were true to our word.

In October of 1961 a wonderful thing happened to me. I met the woman who would be the love of my life. Marie was from Queens, New York, and we met when her cousin, who was a friend of mine, was married in a small town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was love at first sight for me, and one month later in November I moved to New York to pursue my dream girl! How fortunate for me Marie felt the same about me, and we began our courtship. Of course, I contacted Anthony, and we resumed our friendship. He too was courting the love of his life, Judy, whom he'd loved since their teenage years. In March of 1962, Marie and I became engaged, and I called Anthony and asked him to come to Marie's home so I could ask him to be in our wedding. When he came over, Judy was with him, and he seemed excited to tell me something also. He and Judy had also become engaged, and he wanted me to be in his wedding. I said of course, I would be honored , and extended my invitation for him to be in our wedding. After all the excitement, hugs, kisses, and congratulations, we learned that we both had planned September 1, 1962, 10:00 a.m. weddings--ours in Queens, and theirs in Rutland, Vermont, Judy's home town. We could not physically be a part of each other's weddings, but our hearts were with one another on that wonderful day.

The Zazas, and the Pianas, September 1, 1962. (click images for larger)

On the evening of our weddings, after the receptions--amazingly--we met by accident, as we were both staying at the same hotel at Idlewild Airport (now JFK). We actually were checking in at the same time, and although we tried to convince Tony and Judy to join us and our friends for a celebretory drink, they claimed they were tired and went off to their room.The next morning we went our separate ways toward our honeymoons.

As we all settled into married life back in New York, the four of us grew closer, enjoying visits and outings together, and sharing stories about being married. And of course Tony and I bored our wives to tears with our Army tales.

In 1964, Marie and I moved to a small town in Pennsylvania, leaving family and friends behind. Eventually we moved again, this time to Ohio where we raised our family. Although we kept in touch with Tony and Judy by phone calls on our mutual anniversary dates, and greeting cards at Christmas time, it would be more than 30 years before we would see them again.

But that's another story about enduring friendship!

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