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The Charismatic Carbones – Love at First Punch

RoseAnn, a spunky five-year-old girl with a thick head of long dark hair, was sure it was going to be her lucky day. As she headed out to recess at PS113 in the Bronx, a boy, Ralph, asked her if she would like to go on the seesaw with him. She liked the boy. He had big green eyes and long eyelashes, and lots of hair. He was kind of small, and she felt a little protective of him. So when he asked her to play, she was happy to accept.

Up and down, up and down they went, laughing and giggling as they tried to go faster and faster. Then, Ralph slid off, and RoseAnn slammed down to the ground. RoseAnn did what any other self-respecting girl would do. She punched him. The teacher, Mrs. Clayton, quickly intervened, and RoseAnn and Ralph were sent to sit in the hallway together as punishment.

Thus began a friendship that would blossom into a relationship of seventy-two years, and counting.

Everyone knew everyone in the neighborhoods of the Bronx, and RoseAnn and Ralph’s paths intersected outside of school as well as in. He was small as a child, the result of a bout with rheumatic fever, and didn’t have a growth spurt until later in life. Ralph liked RoseAnn. She was smart and sassy. Because of his small stature, Ralph got picked on a lot. RoseAnn became his protector, pulling out her punch one other time when another kid wouldn’t let up.

RoseAnn, far right, with her hand on Ralph's shoulder
RoseAnn, far right, with her hand on Ralph’s shoulder

They found they had a lot in common, with their neighborhood being the constant tie that bound them. They tell the story of the local Mafia don, who lived nearby. As the don passed by, the boys would tip their hats, and the girls would curtsey. As they got older, they went to school dances together, which were chaperoned by his father, and her mother. It seemed the benevolent hand of fate was keeping them together.

RoseAnn and Ralph attended different high schools. She went to Walton High School, and he went to Evander Childs. The year they were to graduate, Ralph took and passed a test that guaranteed him free admission to any New York college. Much to RoseAnn’s surprise, Ralph declined. Instead, he proposed. They had been constantly together since the age of 5, so getting married was pretty much a given. However, RoseAnn says, “I don’t know if Ralph’s proposal was proper since he chose a quiet place adjacent to the cemetery on E. 238th St. in the Bronx.” Perhaps it wasn’t the most romantic spot in which to propose, but RoseAnn still said yes!

When RoseAnn was 19, and Ralph was 20, they married. Within three months, RoseAnn was pregnant with their first child. Ralph worked during the day, and attended college at night. It took him seven and a half years to get his degree. Then he took care of the kids while RoseAnn went to school and got her nursing degree.

They moved to upstate New York. Ralph took on multiple jobs to support the family. He worked at a bank in the daytime, taught at the community college, worked in Jamesways and became a realtor. RoseAnn’s nursing degree took her to the psych ward at a hospital. That first summer, she worked with both functional and schizophrenic autistic children. From there, she worked in critical care, intensive care, coronary care, and the emergency room.

From there, the Carbones moved to Florida, where RoseAnn worked in a children’s hospital. Eventually, when Ralph lost his job in Florida, they moved to New Jersey. At that time, RoseAnn left nursing, while Ralph got a job creating training programs and courses in accordance with the National Safety Act for National Community Bank, which later became the Bank of New York.

Their life together is the stuff a Hallmark movie is made of, but they weren’t without real hardship. The worst time in their life was when their daughter was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor at the age of three. Later, their daughter-in-law passed away after a battle with cancer, and Ralph and RoseAnn raised their two grandchildren as their son threw himself into work.

The Carbones have worked hard together to raise their three children, and now are enjoying some quality social time together. Ralph, used to multitasking, stays busy with the men’s club, and is on the finance committees in their community and in their church. Together, they bowl in a league with the community, go to the exercise room, swim and walk. They are members of the Italian-American club and the Irish-American Club. RoseAnn is an avid reader, and she belongs to the women’s club. Occasionally, they take a community trip to the casino.

All of this is in addition to their volunteer work with Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey. They’ve been CVCJ volunteers for four years. RoseAnn used to grocery shop for our care receivers, and now both she and Ralph provide transportation to doctor visits.

Daily communication is key to their long and happy relationship, although they don’t always have the same opinions. The important thing is that when things “heat up”, they do their best not to go to bed angry. This year, they celebrated fifty-seven years of marriage. CVCJ is a wonderful organization that allows the couple to spend precious time together, while serving others. It gives them dedicated time to be together and discuss daily events in their lives as well as connecting with new friends via the volunteer network. They relish the connections they make, and when they are called, they happily do their best to answer the need with their compassion and friendship.