How we met, how we wed, and how we stayed together

Judy and Steve Nichols with their wedding party at the Grace Episcopal Church. Judy says she was drawn to his "big blue eyes" (and he could "jitterbug with the best of them.") — courtesy Judy and Steve Nichols

Norma and Edson Rodgers
Norma Norton of Edgartown and Edson Rodgers of Vineyard Haven were teenagers on July 4, 1954. When the Edgartown Fourth of July parade approached, Norma ran out for a look and her life changed forever. Now, more than 50 years later, the romance that began that day has endured for the Edgartown couple.

A retired Navy musician and music instructor, Mr. Rodgers, trumpet in hand, is a familiar musical presence at many events. He is a summer tour guide and both are active at Trinity Methodist Church.

“Edson, a trumpet player, was marching with the American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps. Norma worked summers in the Edgartown telephone office. That day she took her break and walked out to Main Street to see the parade pass by,” wrote Ms. Rodgers in a reminiscence for the Times.

“As she stood there Edson stepped right out of the parade line and asked her to go on a date with him to the movies. They were 15 when this happened, and now they have been married 53 years.”

“I had noticed him. Edson was a friend of my friend Porky Francis,” said Ms. Rodgers. “I told him, ‘I like your friend. I’d like to meet him.’ But I was surprised. I didn’t know he was going to do that at the parade.”

They dated during high school. Then Edson joined the Navy and left for Washington, D.C. to attend the Naval School of Music. Norma enrolled at Chandler School for Women in Boston.

“He would come see me. We decided we needed to get married.”

Norma and Edson were married on Dec. 26, 1960 at the Whaling Church where her grandparents and parents had been married.

Both only 21, the newlyweds boarded the Islander for their honeymoon trip. They headed to Pensacola, Florida where Edson was a Navy musician. That began a life with the Navy that took them from Florida to Washington D.C., Virginia, and finally Newport, R.I. Ms. Rodgers worked for the Navy Relief Corps caring for children.

“We had four children and enjoyed them,” said Ms. Rodgers about some of the best parts of their married life. “I’ve always liked going to his concerts. And we enjoy doing a lot of things together, going to the beach, going fishing.”

“I think it was right away when we realized we were in love, when we met at 15. We never forgot about that. We never forgot about one another.”

Today they live the old family home where Ms. Rodgers grew up, once owned by her grandfather, Orin Norton. The house is only steps from Main Street and the parade route where their story all began.

Greg and Heidi Pachico
Once carefree high school sweethearts, Heidi and Greg Pachico of West Tisbury now are busy parents of two with demanding jobs and responsibilities. But they still enjoy being together. They celebrated their eighteenth wedding anniversary Monday, Feb. 3.

Greg is Manager of Cronig’s Meat Department where he has worked since 1984. A longtime member of the West Tisbury Fire Department, he has just been named Assistant Fire Chief. Heidi works at Conroy Apothecary and is training to become a certified pharmacy technician.

Heidi Estrella and Greg Pachico of West Tisbury got together in 1988 as students at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. She was a freshman, he a junior. They had met through Heidi’s older brother, Manny Estrella, IV.

“He was my friend. Heidi was the little sister, always being around,” laughed Greg.

Spending time with groups of friends, the two saw a lot of each other.

“We’d always hang out after school, and often played basketball. She and her friends were into sports as well,” Greg recalled.

Things changed when friends began talking. “I heard people say ‘she likes you.’ ‘Oh, I like her too,’ – that old high school stuff.”

“Once we found that out we started talking together more. And it just kind of grew from there.

“She was always a very attractive girl to me. We had common interests, especially sports. That was the biggest commonality. But I never really thought about her because she was my buddy’s sister.

“She was my type. But it just wasn’t thought about because of that friendship. But Manny was fine with it.”

They dated through high school, “just hanging out at each other’s houses, going to dinner, the movies.” They shared their love of sports. Heidi played soccer and basketball; Greg was on the baseball team.

Then they split up. Heidi headed to Endicott College in Beverly. Greg remained on the Vineyard.

“We got back together while she was still in college, in 1993, the year she graduated. We kind of knew at that point it was each other we wanted to be with.”

Heidi and Greg were married in the midst of a blizzard on Feb. 3, 1996 at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Edgartown.

“A lot of people had a hard time getting to the wedding, including Heidi. She was almost an hour late. I’ll never forget it.”

The bride had slipped in the snow leaving her parents’ home and had to have her dress put back in order.

“It’s not a good feeling when you’re the groom standing in front of the church with everyone looking at you,” said Greg with a chuckle. At last, Heidi arrived and the wedding could begin.

Afterwards, some 150 family members and friends made their way through falling snow for a reception at the Atlantic Connection. The storm didn’t stop the couple’s honeymoon plans.

“We rented a limo to take us to Boston. We were the only vehicle on the boat. What a weird feeling that is!” They flew off the next morning for Florida to begin a 10-day cruise and a week at Disney World.

The Pachicos built a home in West Tisbury in 1997. They have two daughters, Amanda, 14, and Andrea, 11.

Is Greg surprised that it’s been 18 years since they got married?

“Absolutely! All the time. The kids make you realize that by how old they are already. It doesn’t seem possible. It’s unbelievable how the time just flies!

“We enjoy each other’s company,” said Greg, “We’re not really outgoing people, we don’t go out and socialize a lot. We hang out together and with close-knit friends.

“It’s true love, I guess you’d say. We’re each other’s best friends.”

Judy and Stephen Nichols

During their 57 years of marriage and five children Judy and Stephen Nichols of Vineyard Haven have had their share of ups and downs, but plenty of love and good times too. Judy is retired from 20 years as M. V. Hospital Emergency Room receptionist and an active member of Grace Episcopal Church. Steve, an officer at the Edgartown Court House and school crossing guard, retired after years in the trucking business.

“I met Steve through his sister, Anne. I was chums with her in school,” reminisced Ms. Nichols. She had come to the Island from Rhode Island at 13 to live with her grandmother, Hilda Cottle Stevens, and great-grandmother, Nellie Cottle.

“He was four years older. I met him in the old A&P.

“I went in to get hot dogs and he waited on me. I should have kept running,” she laughed.

They socialized with friends but didn’t go out on dates alone together.

“He went into the Army, stationed in Dachau, Germany. He was a Morse Code radio operator. When he came home he started working for Carroll’s Trucking. Then we started dating.

“Steve kept calling me. We’d go out to the movies or bowling. The big thing was to go to the diner for an ice cream soda.

“It was those big blue eyes. That’s what did it! And he’s a very good dancer. He could jitterbug with the best of them. And he went to church every Sunday.

“One night he handed me a diamond he got at McInnis Jewelers. We set a date. The rest is history.

“We were married on July 9, 1956 at Grace Episcopal Church. The Rev. Thomas Henry Lehman married us. It was a small wedding, the reception was in the church. My grandmother and neighbors put everything together. Leona White made our wedding cake.

“Steve has always been a hard worker. He’s a good father. He’s always been willing to travel — and we went everywhere! We had good times! Even when I was 17, I felt that when I get married, this is for life. I’m going into this for the long haul. And I am, and he is.”

Penny Wong and Aguimar Carlos

Penny Wong’s father is Chinese, her mother a New Englander and she grew up in Connecticut. Her husband, Aguimar Carlos, comes from Minas, Brazil. Although their backgrounds are diverse they have successfully negotiated these differences during 20-plus years of marriage.

Ms. Wong is director at Grace Preschool and Mr. Carlos principle owner of Ride On Mopeds in Oak Bluffs. They live in Vineyard Haven.

“It was in 1989, just before my senior year at Connecticut College, and my friend had invited me to come live and work on the Island for the summer. I got a job waitressing at The Golden Dragon/Subs Ahoy in Vineyard Haven.

“Back then, the restaurant was much nicer, with many local people coming in for lunch and live jazz every Monday night. It was a colorful place to work. The owners, the Kims from Korea, worked at the counter; the Chinese men who spoke both Cantonese and Mandarin cooked the main meals worked in the back, and in the middle were two brothers from Brazil who made subs and fried food.

“One of the brothers, Aguimar Carlos, and I spent a lot of time talking during the down times when the place was not that busy.

“We often talked about how difficult it was for him to be a new immigrant and be so far away from family, a situation similar to what my own father had been through when he came to the U.S. at 16 by himself. I immediately saw a caring and determined individual, which was what attracted me to him.

“On my last night on the Island he finally asked me for a date. We went out for pizza at Bumpy Joe’s in Oak Bluffs and got lost riding around on his moped and that was it.

“For the next year we had mostly a phone romance and visited each other several times. I graduated from college and moved out here to live with him in 1990. I got a job working as a teacher at the M.V. Hospital Child Care Center and he worked as a moped mechanic.

“We’ve come a long way. We have been married for over 20 years and have an 11 year-old daughter, Lydia Carlos.

“We have made it this far because we have shown a deep interest and respect for each other’s cultures. I have learned Portuguese and have spent extended amounts of time in Brazil. He has attended all of my big family gatherings whether in Connecticut or in Chinatown in San Francisco. And it all comes back to we both have a good sense of humor and can laugh at our own families!

“When we were married my Chinese cousin sent us this poem, which speaks not only of the interaction between a man and a woman but the melding of two cultures also. I think it speaks perfectly of our last 24 years together:”

Twixt you and me

There’s so much emotion.

That’s the reason why

There’s such a commotion!

Take a lump of clay

Wet it, pat it

and make an image of me

and an image of you.

Then smash them,

crash them,

and add a little water.

Break them and remake them

into an image of you

and an image of me.

Then in my clay,

there’s a little of you.

And in your clay,

there’s a little of me.           

Kuan Tao-sheng (1262-1319)

How we got engaged
Serenaded by the Vineyard Sound.
by Jennifer Ferrie

I got engaged to my husband on MV in 2003 at the Navigator restaurant. We first visited the Island in 2001 as a couple and fell in love immediately. When my husband proposed he set it up with the restaurant so we would sit on the deck. He enlisted the help of The Vineyard Sound to serenade me as he proposed. We didn’t think to take any pictures but luckily a woman mailed me some shots that she took.

We love the Vineyard and continue to return year after year. We were most recently there in 2012 with our then 2.5 year old daughter. Introducing her to all of the great places that we love to visit was one for the memory books.