Brentwood magazine

Love Story: They met by chance at Beefsteak Charlie’s

Barbara Hafner (born Lavery) from West Hempstead talks about meeting her husband, Emil.

Emil and I met in July 1979, when I was 26 and he was 33. I was his waitress at Beefsteak Charlie’s in Bay Shore. I lived with my family in Brentwood and worked as an assistant buyer for Macy’s in Manhattan during the week. Emil was there with three friends and the hostess asked me if I wanted to take one more table.

After my shift ended, we all went out for drinks at a Bay Shore club with a DJ. The music was so loud that I had to ask him his name three times. I had never known someone named Emil. We were attracted to each other and shared a love of music. He asked for my phone number and I asked for his.

Our first date was at Sonny’s Place, a jazz club in Seaford. He lived in Freeport and taught at Baldwin’s Meadow Elementary School. I had moved to Manhattan, so he would drive up to see me.

In 1981 we moved to the West Hempstead home he had grown up in. I wanted to redecorate, so I asked to change the wallpaper in the bathroom. When he said no, I thought: if I can’t change the wallpaper, there’s no way he’s going to put a ring on my finger.

But in March 1982, the morning of my good friend’s daughter’s baptism, he asked me to marry him. On August 21 of that year, we were married at St. Luke’s Roman Catholic Church in Brentwood with a reception at the Brentwood Country Club.

When I got pregnant, Emil had some strong ideas about baby names. And I had my own list of names. His only request was that if it was a boy, he didn’t want to call him Emil. Growing up with that name had been difficult, he says. If we had a daughter, her name would be Emily, after one of her fifth-grade students who was hard-working, smart, and respectful. Emil rejected many boy names. If the name matched a boy who was disruptive in class, for example, he was out. We chose Derek for our son.

Barbara and Emil Hafner were married on August 21, 1982.
Credit: Hafner Family

Emil is smart, funny and plays a mean jazz guitar. He loves history and is a voracious reader of everything from “Hamlet” to Rolling Stone magazine. He has a great sense of humor, with what are called “dad jokes”. Emil had some health issues, but together we overcame them. Because he’s a craft beer connoisseur, I tease him that he should have license plates that say “IPA LOT”.

Emil retired in 2007 from the Baldwin School District, where he taught for 37 years. I taught fifth and sixth grade for 25 years, retiring from the West Hempstead School District in 2019. I was active in my teachers’ union, the West Hempstead Education Association, and served as president for 18 years old. I am currently Vice President of NYSUT Retiree Council 18 and have served on the Executive Council of the Long Island Federation of Labor for 10 years. Emil and I stay active: We go to the gym, walk and run every day, swim and play pickleball. I am also learning to play golf.

We are planning to have a wonderful birthday dinner with our family. We like to go either to Brooklyn, where our daughter, Emily, and our son-in-law live, or to Manhattan, where Derek and his girlfriend live. Nothing beats spending time with family and friends.

If I could give one piece of advice to myself younger, it would be: don’t worry about the little things. Think about the future and enjoy the present.

— With Judy Weinberg

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Cory E. Barnes

The author Cory E. Barnes