Clarence Peck, a young sailor home on leave, walked past an Omaha grocery store on a summer day in 1945 and spotted a dark-haired Italian girl.
Her name was Rose DeCarlo.
A friend introduced him to Rose, and they chatted.
Rose thought Clarence, who served in the Philippines during World War II, looked handsome in his U.S. Navy uniform.
He asked her out, and a courtship began.
The first night after meeting Rose, Clarence told his friends he had found the girl he was going to marry.
Both were 22 and had grown up in Omaha. Rose graduated from the old Omaha Tech High, and when she met Clarence, he was working at the Martin bomber plant, which produced B-26 and B-29 aircraft.
When Clarence was home on leave, he and Rose loved dancing to big-band music downtown, and eating dinner with Rose’s family. Clarence loved sampling the wine Rose’s Italian father made.
At first Rose’s dad, who was born in Sicily, wasn’t thrilled she was dating Clarence because he wasn’t Italian.
Rose’s dad would say something like, “Is that sailor boy still here?”
Clarence’s family was a mix of German, Irish and Dutch and his parents didn’t like that he was dating an Italian girl.
But the two families realized that Clarence and Rose loved each other, and gave their blessings.
Clarence was discharged from the Navy in summer 1946, and that July, he and Rose married at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Omaha.
During the first years of their marriage, Clarence would be gone working in Colorado for weeks at a time, but he wrote Rose love letters telling her how much he missed her and couldn’t wait to see her again.
They ended up moving to Carter Lake, Iowa, and had two children, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Rose and Clarence, who became a skilled cabinetmaker, enjoyed square dancing and playing pinochle with friends.
Throughout their marriage, they reserved Fridays as “date night.” Sometimes, especially when money was tight, their date would be as simple as taking a walk to get an ice cream cone.
Every night before he went to sleep, Clarence would tell his wife: “I love you, Rosie. You are the love of my life.”
On an evening this May, Clarence told Rose those same words, and then died in his sleep. He was 88, and they had been married for 66 years.
Rose, who’s 89, says that handsome sailor boy was the love of her life.