Having a wonderful time! Wish you were here!
CUMBERLAND — On Friday, 50 years after she was married at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Carole Wasilewski returned to Cumberland to honor her late husband and to retrace some hallowed steps.
Besides being a story of love and dedication, Wasilewski’s tale reflects the social-religious climate of the early 1960s.
She was Carole O’Hare, 19, and he was Paul Wasilewski, 21, both from Pittsburgh. Carole had accepted a temporary job as a clerk at a gun shop near the Steel City. She was filling in for an employee on extended leave.
“A month later this guy comes back,” Wasilewski said this week during a phone interview from her home in Portage, Ind.
“It was Paul. He was handsome, but my parents didn’t like him. He had skirts on his car (wheel wells) and a cowboy knob on the steering wheel. He had that DA (duck’s ass) haircut with a big curl.”
Carole and Paul became a couple. Carole became pregnant.
“I was a Pittsburgh-born-and-raised girl with 12 years of Catholic education. You know how it was in those days. Girls who became pregnant disappeared for weeks or months (to give birth).”
Quickly, the couple decided to marry.
“My father was outraged. You had to be 21 then to get married in Pennsylvania and my parents wouldn’t sign the papers,” Carole said.
Maryland had no such age restriction for tying the knot.
“Our parish priest knew a priest in Cumberland and set up a wedding for us. Paul was afraid my father would have him arrested for transporting me across the state line so he insisted I take the bus to Cumberland and he drove.”
On April 25, 1964, the Wasilewskis were wed by Father Ernest Horning in the Catholic church on Fayette Street.
“We started back to Pittsburgh, but stopped in Frostburg to eat,” Carole said.
In March 2014, as she prepared for the trip to Cumberland, Carole emailed a nearly half-century old newlywed photo to Frostburg City Administrator John Kirby asking him to identify the location. She said they had eaten lunch directly across Main Street from the church in the photo.
Kirby pinned the church as the First English Baptist Church and deduced that the eatery across the street would have been Al’s Motel and Restaurant owned by the late Al Via and no longer in operation.
Paul died in March 2010 in Portage, where the Wasilewskis lived since shortly after their marriage. Paul, a civil engineer, had accepted a surveying job there.
“My children can’t believe I am making this trip,” Carole said. “I mean everything I do — go to church, work — is within 5 to 7 miles of the house.”
The couple had five children, three sons and two daughters.
“Aaron is our oldest and he lives in Yakima, Wash. I tried to get him to join me for the trip, but he couldn’t make it. I told him, ‘You’ve already been there, maybe you remember the way,’” Carole said, referring to her son’s prenatal journey.
Carole flew on Thursday from Chicago to Pittsburgh and drove to Cumberland. She plans a few other stops on her golden anniversary tour to see places and people that were part of her early life with Paul.
“Some of those people aren’t alive anymore so some of my visits will be to cemeteries,” she said.
Carole said that, in a way, Paul is with her on the trip.
“Two of our sons and a son-in-law are officers with the Portage Police Department,” she said. “When Paul was in the hospital before he died they brought in a fingerprinting kit and got his thumbprint.”
Carole had stickers made showing her late husband’s thumbprint.
“I’m going to stick them in different places on the trip. They are small, about 2 inches or so. I don’t think they will bother anybody.”
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at email@example.com.