Ellen & Chuck Donen
June 24, 1956
Union Temple, Brooklyn, New York
North Oaks in Pikesville
Ellen Krakower and Charles Donen first met on a blind date in Brooklyn, N.Y.
A friend arranged a blind date for Ellen and asked her to bring a friend for her date’s friend, Chuck. It was Christmas Eve 1954 and probably the most spiritual blind date ever. The group attended Friday night services at a local synagogue, headed to a night club and then witnessed midnight mass at a local church.
“It was just the thing to do,” Chuck said.
Sparks flew for neither couple. So Chuck asked Ellen out. Uncomfortable, Ellen refused. But he kept calling.
She finally relented, and they set a date only to have to cancel as both were ill — Ellen, a 21-year-old first-year teacher with chickenpox, and Chuck with appendicitis that sent the 25-year-old to the hospital.
Three weeks later, they went on a first date, although neither remembers much about it.
“He was very outgoing and social,” recalled Ellen, now 82, “whereas I tended to be just the opposite, shy and reserved.”
“She was cute and sweet and smart,” countered Chuck, 86.
Dates consisted of outings with friends, Ellen’s sorority events or the synagogue/church marathon.
By November, Chuck was certain she was the one, and he gave Ellen a large box for her birthday. With his mother and grandmother watching, Ellen opened five boxes until she saw his mother’s diamond reset for her.
They married at the Union Temple in Brooklyn on June 24, 1956 with about 150 guests in attendance. The young couple honeymooned for a few nights at the Henry Hudson Hotel before Ellen finished out the school year. They enjoyed a 10-day honeymoon in July to Canada before settling in an apartment in Queens.
They fell asleep to the sounds of La Guardia flights and gave birth to a son, Steven, in July 1957. They moved to Connecticut for Chuck’s new engineering job. After giving birth to a daughter, Cindy, in October 1960, they bought a house in Norwalk.
Ellen returned to teaching when Cindy enrolled in kindergarten. Both remained active in a variety of organizations in the Jewish community including in their synagogue, with the federation and a chavurah they founded with a group of friends. They also enjoyed their family time.
In September 2015, they moved to North Oaks in Pikesville to be closer to Cindy and her husband, Beth Israel Congregation Rabbi Jay Goldstein, and their four grown grandchildren. They are active members of the senior community, partaking in music, art and exercise classes, book club and various lectures.
Neither can believe they will soon celebrate 60 years of marriage.
“All the things we’ve done over the years, time went by [quickly] because we were so busy,” said Chuck. “She hasn’t changed much.”
“He’s the same outgoing person that attracted me in the first place,” added Ellen.
When asked to provide advice for newlywed couples, they stressed the importance of having individual interests, but just as important is spending time together.
“We enjoy being with each other, doing things together,” said Chuck. “We always have been very active together and enjoy being together.”
Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email [email protected]