- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
It all began on a Friday evening in September 1963.
I was 20 and living in Boston at the YWCA on Berkeley Street. My girlfriend, Mary, and I decided to take the subway to the Charlestown YMCA, a few miles away. We had heard that there were USO dances there.
The dances were primarily held for the servicemen from the Charlestown Naval Shipyard. We walked into the dance hall. I had never seen so many sailors in one place before. Mary and I stood around for a few minutes then made our way to a seat.
All of a sudden, I noticed the cutest sailor in the world staring at me from across the room — tall, dark and handsome. My heart did a leap! Our eyes locked, and I walked over. He had the most incredible dark brown eyes that I had ever seen.
“Hi. My name is Noel Laungayan,” he said. “Would you care to dance with me?”
“Sure. My name is Suzi Hunt.”
We spent the whole evening talking and dancing with one another. I was on cloud nine. At the end of the evening, “Save the Last Dance for Me” was played, and that was the signal the event was over. We gave each other a hug and exchanged phone numbers. We planned to meet the next day at Boston Common park.
After taking the subway back to the YWCA, Mary and I spent two hours excitedly talking about our evening. “I think I am in love!” I said. “Oh my goodness, love at first sight happened to me!”
Noel and I spent our first date walking around Boston Common. But that was just the beginning. I was employed in the legal department at an insurance company and, after work, when his ship was in port, we would meet and walk all over Boston.
How I concentrated on my legal secretarial duties during the day, I don’t know. My mind was filled with nothing but Noel.
Noel had artistic abilities. He drew the most beautiful roses for me, which I kept in a special box.
On our third date, he confessed that he was madly in love with me. The feeling was mutual. One major problem existed, though.
When I took Noel to meet my mother and sister in Manchester, N.H., my mother, who was French, did not take kindly to Noel because he was from the Philippines. When Noel asked for her permission to marry me, she refused. (In the 1960s, an old-fashioned tradition still existed in French families whereby permission to marry was asked of the parent.)
“But I love him!” I shouted.
We left and took the bus back to Boston. Noel and I continued to see one another. In April 1966, we decided to marry without my mother’s permission.
Wedding plans were made, and everything was set. Three days before our wedding day, however, Noel called and said, “I cannot marry you. My parents object.”
“We are marrying one another!” I said desperately. “Our parents have nothing to do with this. They will get used to the idea.”
“I cannot do it. Goodbye,” he said, and hung up.
My heart was shattered. I made a vow never to love so deeply again. For weeks afterward, I was a robot — I went to work, came home, ate dinner and then went to bed. My friends were worried about me. My family was worried about me.
It was about that time my mother asked me to visit her. On that visit, I discovered a copy of a letter addressed to Noel in my mother’s tissue box. (In those days, letters had carbon copies.) While Mother was grocery shopping, I read the letter. It was the nastiest letter I had ever read. No wonder he copped out of the wedding. I could just imagine how he felt upon receiving this correspondence.
When my mother returned, I confronted her. “He wasn’t good enough for you,” she said. “You can do better.”
I cried all the rest of the day.
But life went on. Forty-six years later, I was living in Phoenix. I had been married and divorced twice. I had two children from the first marriage — a son, Scott, and a daughter, Shannon — and no children by the second marriage.
By October 2012, I had retired from the Arizona Department of Economic Security. On the morning of Oct. 12, after having my coffee, I picked up the phone and listened to the messages. I could not believe my ears. It was a call from Noel Laungayan after 46 years. The message requested that I call him at a Maryland phone number. I called and Noel answered. I was caught unprepared by his announcement that he was actually in Phoenix and had been outside my gated community earlier that morning.
“Could I see you today? I would like to talk with you,” he said.
We made a date for 3 p.m. that same day. He was to come to the condo where I lived, and we would go to a restaurant where we could sit and talk.
It took some time to pull myself together after his call. My thoughts were racing. What does he look like now? Has he changed much? Will he recognize me? How do I lose 50 pounds in 10 minutes?
Noel called me from the condo gate. I walked outside and waved my arms. He walked closer and closer. My heart did flip-flops. He was a little shorter than I had remembered, and his hair had turned gray. He was now 70. However, when I looked at him, all my eyes saw was that tall, dark, handsome sailor I had fallen in love with so long ago. I kissed him on the lips and gave him a hug, almost crushing the dozen red roses and bottle of red wine he was carrying as gifts to me.
We spent three and a half hours at a Chinese restaurant discussing the past 50 years. He explained that he had found my name in the White Pages and had decided to fly to Phoenix to ask forgiveness for standing me up at the altar in 1966. He had carried this guilt with him for all these years, and he did not want to die with it on his conscience. He explained the reason for his actions, and, of course, I forgave him. He said that I had always been on his mind throughout the years, and he had always loved me. I had, also, always loved him and wondered how he was doing. He had always been in my prayers.
Noel informed me that his wife, Blanche, had died four years earlier as a result of a car accident. They had had five children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Time flew by. We talked and talked. I believe God reunited us.
We spent the next two weeks seeing each other every moment we could and getting to know one another again. At the end of that time, Noel asked me to move to Callaway in Maryland to live with him and to spend the rest of our lives together. The love we had for one another was still there, even after all these years.
I suggested that I visit him at Thanksgiving to meet his family. A few days before Thanksgiving, I flew to Baltimore and he, his son and grandson picked me up at the airport. They told me they could not wait to meet “that lady from Phoenix who makes Dad act like a teenager in love.”
I flew back to Phoenix, put my house up for sale, packed my belongings and prepared for the move to Callaway. On Jan. 1, 2013, I moved in with Noel. I was surprised to learn he is a master gardener and grows organic vegetables. He also attends craft fairs where he sells his handmade birdhouses, wishing wells and lighthouses. He is quite talented.
I treat him with respect, patience and unconditional love and he, in turn, does the same. We have both learned that, in a relationship, it is doing the little things that count so much.
I believe Noel is my soulmate and I his. It was not our destiny to spend our youth together, but God has reunited us so we may spend our golden years.
Suzy and Noel were married Oct. 19 at George B. Cecil Park in Valley Lee under the pavilion. Her brother-in-law, the Rev. Paul Sherwood of Bridgeville, Del., officiated. “I am still flying high!” Suzi said Nov. 8, while visiting The Enterprise office after returning home from their honeymoon. They spent several days in San Juan and then took a seven-day cruise in the southern Caribbean. “I thank God every day for bringing Noel back into my life and for my many blessings,” she said.