In 1942, Evelyn Brennan was “a girl with bangs” standing across the room at a party.
Chris Fitzgerald saw her and thought, “There’s the girl for me.”
She agreed to dance but told him she was in love with somebody else — engaged, actually, to her high school sweetheart.
"Didn’t faze him in the least," she says. "Not in the least."
He found a way to walk her home that night and then ordered an onion sandwich — “just being playful” — when they stopped for a burger along the way. He made her laugh.
She addressed a Dear John letter to that somebody else.
A month after the party, “I asked her to be the manager of my baseball team,” Chris Fitzgerald, 86, says smiling.
"That was how he proposed to me," says Evelyn, 85. "He said, ‘I’d love it if you could be manager of my baseball team or if I could be manager of your baseball team.’ And I said, ‘What?’ I didn’t get it. But he was really asking me to marry him."
She was 20, he was 21. They met in September, were engaged in October and married in November.
"Then I sailed away," says Chris, one of the first graduates of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
He was gone for 40 days that time. The next time it was for two years. She wrote a letter every day. Every day. He lost his wallet once while in the Pacific, but somehow it was returned. It was the one “with 18 or 20 pictures of his wife,” she says.
"Are you okay? I don’t want you to be emotional, or I won’t talk about it," Evelyn Fitzgerald says as the eyes of her husband of 65 years start to well.
He came back once, in ‘44, but then was called again to leave. That morning, Evelyn and another sailor’s wife woke at dawn and stood at the water’s edge as the hulking gray vessel pulled away.
"We watched and we watched and we watched, and then, after about two hours, we saw the ship go way out. That’s when the war was really bad," she says. "With the kamikazes."
Lt. Chris Fitzgerald returned for good in 1945. Soon enough, there were five kids and a career with the CIA. Then there were 13 grandchildren and a house in Florida. Then there was a great-grandchild and a stroke and a retirement community in Arlington.
Does he like it there? “Not really.”
"But that’s okay," he adds, looking across the room at Evelyn. "I like you, kid."
"Yeah," she responds. "Well, that’s good."