Featured Column
Week of 9.13.2004
"Love forever true"
Helen and Sonny
          Things were looking up in November, 1928 for Helen and Dorothy as they sat in the luxury of Schraft’s Candy and Coffee Shop on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. They had been friends since they were 8-year olds, living in the same building on Sheridan Avenue.
          Dorothy and Helen both ordered coffee and splurged on a charlotte russe for each. As they waited for their order Dorothy leaned forward in her chair and advised her friend, “Helen, I met this guy at the bakery this morning and I think he’d be perfect for you.” The 17-year old Helen asked, “Who is he? You didn’t give him my name, did you?” After all, Helen had never had a real date in her life. Her parents were Jewish, with a mix of cultural and religious leanings. They watched the social upbringing of their beautiful daughter closely. Any date would have to be authorized by Helen’s father and mother.
           Dorothy, continued, “He’s cute and he has a good job with the City of New York, he’s a signalman with the subway system. I think you’d like him. I did tell him a little about you.”
           “Dorothy, you know my mom and dad won’t let me date until I’m at least 18. Is he Jewish?” “Nope, in fact he’s Irish-Catholic and he’s six years older than you, but I really think you ought to at least meet him.” “There’s no way my dad, especially, would let me go out with a boy that isn’t Jewish, certainly not with an Irish-Catholic guy.” 
          The coffee and the two charlotte russes were brought to their table and the conversation changed to the difficulty of their classes at James Monroe Business School, where both attended, hoping to wind up as clerks with a reliable firm somewhere in New York City upon their graduation in a few months.
          Two days later, on a Saturday morning, Dorothy had wheedled Helen, and the Irish-Catholic guy from the bakery to join her for a cup of coffee at Schraft’s. The guy, everyone called him Sonny, was handsome, charming, witty and gentlemanly with the two young women. Helen had stolen glances at the young men in her Bronx neighborhood, but she had never even held hands with one.
          From first glance Sonny was smitten with Helen. He spoke to both women but his eyes stayed on Helen. “I’ve never seen a woman like this, she’s so beautiful and those dark brown eyes,” he thought.
          Sonny went home to his small apartment in the south Bronx where he lived
with his brother Art. He knocked at the front door, used his key to enter, saw his brother sprawled on the worn couch and said, “Art, I’m in love with a beautiful woman who I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.”
          Sonny and Helen met alone the following Saturday for coffee and lunch at Schraft’s. They talked for three hours and by four in the afternoon their dreams were set. A magical bond of passion, fondness and love had formed between the beautiful Jewish woman and the charming, funny Irish-Catholic man.
           The pair met at Schraft’s twice more before the daunting subject of meeting her parents was broached. His parents had died when he was a teenager. He had five brothers and two sisters, but only brother Art was family- close with him after their parents died.
          Eventually Helen warned him, “Sonny, I’m worried about you meeting my parents. They want me to marry in my religion.” 
          The first meeting with the parents was distant and unfriendly. The second remained icy cold. Gradually her parents grew to like Sonny. His friendliness and charm was slowly winning them over. They could tell that their daughter was the object of this man’s adoration.
          Soon it was August, 1929 and Helen celebrated her 18th birthday when Sonny asked her for her hand in marriage. Helen’s first reaction was surprise and shock. Her answer would have been “yes,” but her thoughts went immediately to her mother and father. “How could they permit me to marry outside my religion?” After all, it was 1929 and this type of union was called a “mixed marriage.”
           The beautiful Jewish woman and the handsome, charming Irish-Catholic man decided that the time had come for him to ask for her hand in marriage. Following a dinner at her parent’s house Sonny coughed and began his entreaty. When done he sighed, took a deep breath and said, “I love your daughter and would like to marry her. You have my promise that I will love her and care for her forever.”
           The parents exchanged knowing glances. They had been talking about this possibility since Helen had first told them she had met a nice man. Without asking any questions the father said, “You know we want the best for our Helen. We would prefer she marry into her own faith, but in the short time we have known you we have grown to trust you and we trust our Helen’s judgement in this matter. We shall give you both our blessing and wishes for a long and fruitful life together. May God bless you both.”
          Helen stood transfixed for a moment and then rushed to hug – first her mother, then her loving father, then her future husband, who bore a huge grin as joyous, appreciative tears rolled down his cheek. As the couple hugged their tears mingled, as soon their lives would.
          They married on September 24, 1929. All over town New Yorkers were talking about the opening next year of the world’s tallest building – The Empire State Building. In a few, short weeks Wall Street would collapse. The stock market would wipe out 9 million savings accounts and 86,000 businesses shut their doors, unable to sell their products or services.
          Through the great depression, World War II, a move from New York to California, the birth of a son and a daughter their love continued to grow. Those who knew Sonny and Helen could feel their abundant love for each other. As important as their great love – they openly liked and cared for each other.
          The years rolled by, their children grew as did their love for the other.
          Then, in 1960, as suddenly as they found their love, Helen was gone. A victim of cancer. Her children, her friends, her family were devastated with the death of their beautiful Helen, but none more than her lifelong friend and lover – Sonny.
          He tried desperately to go on without his dark-eyed beauty. Slowly his heart weakened and four years after she left him he died – on the exact date of their wedding anniversary.

          The doctors said he died of heart failure.
          I think my dad died of a broken heart.
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger