XENIA — A young Army soldier, Donald Necina took one look at Sadie Hill and knew instantly she was it.
“I noticed Sadie and I said (to myself) ‘that’s my girl and I’m gonna marry her,’ ” the now 93-year-old said. “It was love at first sight. And it just continued right on.”
That love bug that bit Necina and Hill that day in 1944 spawned a marriage that has lasted 71 years and produced four children, eight grandchildren, 4 step-grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild. As the Necinas gathered with family June 9 to honor that seven-decade union, they celebrated a story of fate, war and perseverance.
Necina, a member of Company C 202 Combat Engineers Battalion, had previously dated a friend of Sadie’s, Joyce Twiss, before being shipped overseas.
“In the process, she gave me (an) address and phone number and said if you ever get to England, I want you to look up a girlfriend,” Necina said. “I had a chance to take leave while I was in Northern Ireland. I stopped in and saw the girl.”
Necina — with best friend Howard Meyer — walked into the dry cleaner where 17-year-old Sadie Hill worked and his whole life changed.
Don and Sadie instantly hit it off, as did Meyer and Sadie’s sister Nancy.
“She was very vibrant, full of life,” Necina said. “I didn’t want to have any other girl except my little girl here.”
Sadie knew it too.
“Yes I did,” she said. “I was with four other women in the store. I was so flustered. They introduced his name. Necina, we always have trouble with that name. It’s like when people we say that to them (they ask) how do you spell that? I was very flustered in trying to get the name right. Then all the girls in the store teased me afterwards.”
But this was England during World War II and nothing lasted forever. Necina was part of the second wave to land at Normandy during D-Day and as quickly as he and Sadie met, they were separated.
But they managed to stay together during those years.
“During the war everything was through letters,” Necina said. “Never did get to see her actually. A lot of writing.”
Added Sadie, “A lot of letters went back and forth.”
As the Allied forces put the coup de grace on the Germans, Necina finally received another chance to visit England as the war ended. The blissful reunion led to a double engagement — Necina to Sadie and Meyer to Nancy.
But that’s where it became interesting. And oh so frustrating.
Don was sent stateside, but Sadie who was 19 and considered underage by British standards, was kept in England. The embassy was covering the couple in red tape, showing no sense of urgency to allow Sadie to travel to the U.S. to get married.
“He was getting very upset because I wasn’t getting any passageway to come over,” Sadie said.
It seemed that only those who were already married received the OK to leave.
“I was kinda crying the blues to my mother,” Don said. “They just kept putting me off.”
His mother suggested writing to Ohio Sen. Robert A. Taft, who within 10 days had Sadie on the Queen Elizabeth heading for New York. Interestingly enough, it was that same Taft family which owned the Ohio farm where Necina lived as a child.
Call it fate or coincidence, but Don didn’t care.
Sadie and a friend arrived on the ship, were met by her aunt and uncle from Connecticut and the couple was married March 7, 1947.
“There was no going to Ohio without me getting married in Connecticut,” Sadie said. “They were very strict about that.”
The couple settled in Aurora, renting a little cottage for $15 a month.
“We thought we were in second heaven, didn’t we Don?” Sadie, 90, said. He went to work for Phillips Petroleum as a propane salesmen and then a promotion and a job offer later he was in Jamestown running Ohio Gas. The Necinas lived on Shawnee Lake for 27 before moving to Xenia.
Their marriage produced daughters Gail Lewis, and husband Richard, who live in Xenia; Terrie Necina, who lives in Tennessee; and Kimberly Patton and husband, Darryl, who live in Kentucky; and son Ronald, who died in 2004.
The couple has had its share of good and bad times. But Don said one thing has kept them together this long.
“Love,” he said.
Love at first sight. Love for 71 years.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.