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  • Photo Adelaide Hopkins

    February 13, 2020

    Addie and Bob - A Love Story on the Heights

    The courtship of Bob Ealy and Adelaide Hopkins (in her own words circa fall 2017)

    It was in February or March of 1951 that I spied Bob Ealy.

    The cafeteria at Le Moyne College had pretty much cleared out. I looked across the tables and saw a very handsome senior classman. I knew he was a senior, as he was wearing a black robe – required garb for seniors at a Jesuit school. My, he was good looking!

    Shortly thereafter I learned his name. Le Moyne was getting up carpools to go to a basketball game at Siena College in Albany. I had allies working for me at that time and found out that my handsome target was riding in a car driven by Gene Kelly. Through my sister Kathy and her friend Bill Dolan I, too, got a ride with Gene. I really don’t recall how much Bob and I interacted that night, but I was happy just to be riding in the same car with him.

    Thereafter ensued a relentless campaign to have him notice me. I had sentries posted at each of three staircases at Le Moyne to let me know his whereabouts and to discern whether he was taking the bus home or walking. Sometime during the spring my former high school, the Convent School, was having an alumni dance in downtown Syracuse. With moral support from Marilyn Corbett and my sister Kathy, I entered a phone booth at Le Moyne and invited him. He said yes! We double-dated with Kathy and “Chooch” (my future brother-in-law, Dr. Chuck Elliott). I was in heaven.

    (I don’t remember the proper sequence of the following events, but I recount them here to show how I pursued Bob until he caught me.) 

    One day my intelligence gatherers told me that Bob was walking home, so I started walking. I walked about a mile and still no Bob. Along came Ed Coughlin and Chooch in a car. They stopped and Chooch gestured for me to get in. I declined. Then Bob peeked his head out the backseat window. I accepted. We both got out at my house on Allen Street and sat on the porch and talked. I was thrilled.

    I learned that Bob had invited a girl to the Le Moyne senior dance already, Joyce Frank, whom he rode the bus with to school. I was envious of her, but he had invited her before we had gotten better acquainted. However – thrill of thrills – Bob called my twice while he was at the dance and told me he wished he was there with me! I was so delighted. I had never before been singled out by a guy I liked so much (Paul Keebler liked me, but I didn’t like him back so much). I was ‘one of the gang’ with Bill Fallon, Tom Bardenette, Tom Quinlan, Keebler, and George Shattuck – they would come over to my house often, but there were no romantic ties. Paul Ryan courted me for a while; he was very handsome but rather different. He had left the priesthood to attend Le Moyne. He flew an airplane and once buzzed my house on Allen Street. A neighbor reported him and he was grounded for a month. Unfortunately, he was killed in that plane about a year later.

    About a week after the Le Moyne senior dance, Bob invited me to the movies. Oh, happy day! That was the beginning of a long relationship. It was a rainy night and Bob showed up in a fedora hat, rubbers, and a translucent rain coat, much to the amusement of my sisters. Thereafter we went on double or triple dates with Kathy and Chooch and my brother Chris and his future wife Joannie.

    One night we were out in Chris’s convertible (I don’t know where we went), and Bob had too much to drink. At one point he had to get out of the car to throw up, soiling his shirt in the process. Chris opened his trunk and pulled out a tennis sweater for Bob to wear. Chris never saw that sweater again, although he asked about it often. Bob never knew what happened to it, either.

    Bob didn’t have a driver’s license or a car, so we double-dated with driving couples like his brother Tom and future wife Roberta and their pals. We also took a bus to dance at a bar near Tipperary Hill; I loved that. While dancing one night, the jukebox played Nat King Cole’s “Too Young.” It was so romantic, I adopted it forever after.

    But we actually had the most fun and laughs when we were by ourselves. I really liked his mother, Nel, and sister, Ellen. I went to their house for dinner sometimes.

    At the end of my junior year, I had to tear myself away from Bob to go to Red Cross Waters Safety Instructors school to polish up my skills. While there, someone took a photo of me in the arms of a tall, handsome fellow instructor, Lyman King. He lifted me easily and I think he liked me (I was piling up admirers). A few weeks later, Bob and I went to a beach on Lake Ontario – maybe Sandy Pond or Selkirk Shores – and at one point he grabbed me and lifted me just as Lyman had, proving his prowess. I was glad to know he was jealous! That summer I taught swimming, and Bob worked ground maintenance for Onondaga County.

    We saw each other a great deal and went dancing and to movies. One night we were smooching in the car I was driving when Bob pronounced how “marvelous” I was and asked me to marry him. I said no because I was only 21!

    In September, I went back to Le Moyne and Bob went off to graduate school at Georgetown University to study International Relations. We wrote to each other and he came home several times on redeye flights. Kathy and I rode down to Washington, D.C. with a friend – Warren (“Red”) Stanton Ackerman III – for her to see Chooch (who was in med school at Georgetown) and for me to see Bob. They roomed together at the time. Kathy and I stayed in a boarding house.

    Bob and I were very happy to see each other. We walked around Washington. At one point we passed the Robert Winston candy shop and its beautiful window display of chocolates. I was a real chocolate lover and commented on the shop. For his part, Bob had gotten very thin; he said he existed on liverwurst sandwiches because he didn’t have a large food allowance.

    We spent Christmas 1951 together. He gave me a beautiful watch which was, according to the fashion of the time, very small. I have saved it all these years. It was a romantic and happy time for us. During this time Bob also surprised me with a box of Robert Winston candy. I kept the box for years and put letters from Bob in it. It’s gone now, I’m sorry to say, lost in a downsizing. We dated through 1952; it gets kind of fuzzy here – nothing momentous happened.

    In the spring of 1953, Bob and I parted – I thought I should date other guys. Bob again got so thin and was in despair, I learned later. I saw him on Westcott Street one day and he looked desolate. I didn’t know he loved me that much! At a later time his sister Ellen told me that she and Tom’s wife Roberta were so worried about him that they contemplated sending me a letter asking me to reconsider.

    Meanwhile, I was having a great time visiting Chooch with my sister Kathy and eyeing a particular med student from New Jersey, Tony D’Amato. I never got to first base with him, although we went out together many times. It seems he was being true to his hometown sweetheart. Kathy told me years later that he turned into a real stick-in-the-mud. Good.

    At one point I Iearned that Bob didn’t go back to Georgetown; he had been drafted into the army on Nov. 9, 1953 to serve in Korea. But lo and behold, in the summer of 1954, I started getting letters from Bob overseas. He was still thinking of me! They weren’t love letters – more like documentaries. I wrote back to him; I don’t remember the content. I kept his letters in that Robert Winston box. I wish I had them now.

    Fast forward to Veteran’s Day weekend, 1955. Fate.

    My sister Patricia and I drove down to Washington to visit Kathy and Chooch. On Sunday we all went to mass at Trinity Church in Georgetown. I looked up after going to communion, and there was Bob Ealy in the communion line! After mass Chooch was outside the church talking to Bob and invited him to their apartment for brunch. I don’t remember very much about it, but it must have been amicable.

    Bob had been out of the army only three weeks. He had headed to Washington for a nostalgic visit at the exact time I went there. The hand of God? He did seem attractive to me at that time. Both he and I had matured. On the drive home, Patri commented, “I’d give that Ealy boy a second look if I were you.” I agreed, but how to go about it?

    Somehow my older sister Rosalind (“Roz”) got into the mix and met Bob a couple of times before Christmas 1955. And then somehow Bob was again courting me. It was exciting. We got right back in the dating groove, but this time I appreciated him. He was witty, sharp, and we laughed a lot together. By now Bob had obtained a license and a new car – a black and white Plymouth. Sometimes we went to a neighborhood bar on Westcott Street to listen to the jukebox. Rosemary Clooney sang a silly tune at that time, “C’mon To My House.” I would sing along with her and Bob got a big kick out of that.

    Along about late winter or early spring 1956, St. Vincent’s Church put on a variety show and I was in it, dancing with a group. Bob took me to all of the practices and performances. He and his sister Ellen sent me a hilarious, witty telegram on opening night critiquing the performance. I was hooked. After the final performance he brought me home and we were smooching in the foyer at my house. I said, “I love you” and he said, “I love you, too.” I said that usually leads to marriage and he asked me to marry him. I willingly accepted. By now, as corny as it sounds, we were not only in love, but were best friends, too. We remained that forever.

    Early in May we drove down to Washington to visit Kathy and Chooch. While driving alongside the Susquehanna River we were stopped by a state trooper, who wondered why our car was weaving. I guess we were cuddling too much. We told him we had just gotten engaged, so he smiled, warned us, and sent us on our way.

    On the morning of May 6, 1956, while Kathy and Chooch were out of the apartment, Bob sat me down on the couch, sat across from me, opened a ring box and gave me a beautiful diamond and platinum ring, which I wear to this day. He slipped it on my finger and said, “Nothing is too good for my Adelaide.” After that joyful moment we went sightseeing at Bob’s old haunts. First stop, the Iwo Jima monument in Arlington Cemetery.

    Next came the preparations for a Nov. 10 wedding. My parish church had suffered a fire, which required Roz to get married in St. Vincent’s auditorium in August. I opted instead for a wedding at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt. The movie “The King and I” was popular around this time and my mother wanted to make a dress with a large hoop skirt similar to the character Anna’s when she dances with the king. So she bought yards of satin and a Dior hoop and made me a beautiful wedding gown.

    Bob was working at Procter and Gamble in the State Tower Building in Syracuse. I worked at the Welfare Department in Adoption and Foster Care.

    We had our first argument in Albert’s jewelry store when we went to buy my wedding band. He wanted me to get the plain white gold ring, and I wanted the band with four tiny diamonds for $175 more, which matched my engagement ring.