First of two parts.
Bill and Martha Green met as students at Hofstra University in the late 1960s, when the Vietnam War raged and the assassinations of major public figures like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy roiled the nation. Five decades later, the two say it’s surreal that they have spent virtually their entire adult lives together, married, but they have. Bill proposed on Valentine’s Day 1968.
Martha, now 71, whose maiden name was Sweeney, grew up in Freeport, and Bill, 75, was raised in Massapequa. They’re Long Islanders through and through. Their love story, however, took them around the world before they finally settled in Freeport, where they have lived since the late 1980s.
The country might have been on fire in 1968, but Bill and Martha fell in love and married that year. Martha said it was as if she blinked and here she is today, the mother of two sons, now 44 and 42, and the grandmother of two boys.
The Greens’ story goes like this: Martha was a sister in Hofstra’s Alpha Theta Beta sorority, and Bill was a brother in Upsilon Gamma Alpha, now known as Tau Kappa Epsilon. They ran into each other at Zolies, a watering hole on Hempstead Turnpike that Hofstra Greeks frequented. (It’s now McHebes.) Then they met up at Memorial Hall, Hofstra’s old cafeteria, which now houses an eatery and administrative offices. The two often had lunch there together with sorority and fraternity friends.
“I thought she was beautiful, very nice and everything else like that,” Bill said. “And she talks and talks and talks. I think we spotted each other and hit it off well.”
Bill said he had met Martha only a handful of times when he knew that she would be his girlfriend. Soon the two were dating, and attending sorority and fraternity dances together.
“I thought he was really funny and very good-looking,” Martha said, her eyes darting at her husband.
Bill graduated from Hofstra in 1967 with a degree in business administration. After graduation, he moved to Washington, D.C., to start his first job with the federal government, while Martha completed her senior year. On Halloween night 1967, Martha told her mother that she knew Bill was “the one.”
“I knew I was going to marry him a year before he proposed,” Martha said. “I told my mom I was going to marry him.”
After a year of traveling back and forth from Washington to Long Island to see her, Bill received a draft notice to fight in the Vietnam War. He signed up for the Army. On Feb. 14, 1968, he proposed, and the couple married on Sept. 21 of that year. On Oct. 1, Bill was off to boot camp at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.
According to Martha, the couple were fortunate to travel together from Texas to Germany, where they lived for a little more than a year, until Bill shipped off to Vietnam in 1970. He served a one-year tour as a medic. He did not want to say much about Vietnam, other than to say he was there.
In 1971, the couple returned to the United States, where Bill was initially stationed at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. There Bill received an honorable discharge from the Army, and he immediately joined the National Guard. The couple then moved to Atlanta, and their first son, William Jr., was born there. Their second son, John, came along two years later.
The couple settled in Freeport to raise their children as the ’80s were winding down. Martha taught calculus at Baldwin High School from then until she retired in 2005, and she later became a statistics and calculus professor at Molloy College in Rockville Centre. Meanwhile, Bill worked for the federal government in a number capacities, including for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, from which he retired in 2003.
The couple remain in Freeport.
“I love you,” Martha told Bill, as this reporter was finishing the interview.
“I love you, too,” Bill replied with