TOMS RIVER – Nothing could stop their love, not even a world war.
There was no significance to the date, May 9, 1943 – Mother’s Day that year – except that Jack Mascola was able to go on furlough that weekend to marry Emily. They had met before, but the first blush of romance happened at another wedding.
“Jack’s sister married my uncle,” Emily said. “I was bridesmaid at the wedding. This is when it started, then and there.” They were very compatible, Jack added. They were both Italian. They were both Roman Catholic. They were both working class. They met in October and married the following May at Our Lady of the Valley Church in Orange, New Jersey.
“We knew each other, we liked each other, and that was it,” Emily said.
Jack, 99, and Emily, 97, are celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary this year.
“Why are we married 75 years, Jack?” Emily asked.
“Well, people say to me, you must be doing something right, but I can’t figure out what I’m doing right,” Jack said. “If you get married, and you stay together, make a commitment, and live long enough, you can be married 75 years.
“I don’t know what the secret is. The secret is God. I don’t know why He gives me the long life, but Emily and I are enjoying longer lives than our parents or grandparents ever dreamed of.”
Emily’s father died when she eight years old, leaving her mother a young widow with three children, the youngest 9 months old. Emily was now responsible for caring for her younger siblings while her mother worked as a telephone operator.
Jack’s father died before he was born. His father was a casualty of the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50-100 million people. He died in July 1918 and Jack was born the following January. Jack’s mother died at age 40 when he was six years old, during a tuberculosis outbreak. Jack and his older brother Joseph were sent to live in an orphanage. Joseph was only 11 when he died in the orphanage. Jack was 9.
Jack’s sister, nine years his senior, gained custody of him soon after and raised him. They lived with two older brothers, who worked to support the family.
Jack was drafted during peacetime in January 1941. He was to serve a year, but then of course, Pearl Harbor happened. He was now in for the duration of the war. He started at Fort Dix but was transferred to Fort Dupont in Delaware, where his math studies shaped his military service.
“One morning, we were all lined up, the whole company of 250 men, and they said, ‘Anybody that took algebra and geometry in high school, take one step forward.’ Out of 250 men, 11 people stepped forward. I was one of them. ‘They need you on a mine ship at Fort Dupont or Fort Hancock,'” Jack said. “I thought they wanted me for my brains, but they wanted me for my hard work! That mine ship was hard work.”
So Jack laid mines in the Atlantic. His outfit included “rum runners,” fast boats confiscated by the government from bootleggers during Prohibition. They dropped depth charges when enemy German U-boats were spotted in the area. Jack sustained a back injury when he failed to properly deploy one of the charges. He was hospitalized for six weeks.
Back home, Emily kept busy working for Prudential Insurance Company. She worked there until Jack was discharged from the Army, and they moved to New York. The family then spent a couple years in California before returning to Orange.
Jack had a good government job, which promised good benefits and a good pension to carry them into their golden years. But Jack wanted something else.
“He wanted to go into the building business,” Emily said. “That was a big change. We both had to work together. That’s when I got my broker’s license, to join him in that.”
“She was always supportive. When I said, ‘I think want to quit my job and go into business,’ she said, ‘Go right ahead. Let’s do it.’ She never stood in the way of what I wanted to do or how I wanted to do it, and she was very supportive,” Jack said. His mother-in-law had other ideas. “She said I was crazy. ‘You’ve got a government job you’re quitting?’ Yeah, I’m quitting, because I don’t just want the bread and butter. I want some caviar and champagne. My mother-in-law thought I was crazy. And the people I worked with, they thought I was crazy too!”
Emily became a real estate broker and eventually secured the land between Sally Ike and Herbertsville roads in Brick that became Mayo Estates, which grew to more than 200 homes. They lived in a home there, then one on River Road in Manasquan, before finally settling in Greenbriar Woodlands in Toms River about 30 years ago. They spent most of the year in New Jersey, and spent some winter months in their condominium in Florida.
Jack’s building business flourished. His success allowed for travel for them and their two children, and more travel once they retired. Their home on Crimson Court is filled with photos of their family – two children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren – and their travels to Egypt, China, Japan, and other places.
Jack introduced Emily to the opera, and she adopted his interest in the RMS Titanic, where they spent five days on a ship over its wreckage off the coast of Newfoundland. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was on that cruise. That was back in 1992, where the couple also met three Titanic survivors on that cruise.
“We enjoyed travelling. We enjoyed working together. And being congenial to each other. We didn’t fight much,” Emily said.
“No marriage is perfect. There’s always problems, but we never blew up the problems where they became real problems. We just go with the flow, you know? We take the good and the bad. We’ve had a lot more good than we’ve had bad,” Jack said.
“It’s been a very good life to us because we’ve both enjoyed the same things,” Emily said.