Smooth Sailing

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100314_beshert1Sally & Arnold Rifkin
First Date: Moonlight cruise, August 1945
Wedding Date: Sept. 4, 1949
Venue: Chizuk Amuno Congregation
Residence: Pikesville
Favorite Activity: Cooking, traveling

Sally Conn fell in love with Arnold Rifkin on their first date.


Arnold, 17, needed a date for his fraternity’s moonlight cruise. A family connection paired him with Sally, 14. It was August 1945, and there was no hand holding or kiss goodnight. But they did dance, talk and gaze out at the water together. A “sophisticated” Arnold, with his brown jacket and pipe, blew Sally away. He noted her intelligence.

Young and popular, Sally went on many dates. But if they weren’t with Arnold, he would wait for her with Sally’s parents, Samuel and Mildred Conn. Although he hadn’t admitted it, he was smitten with Sally as well.

It didn’t take long; soon after that first date, it was just Arnold for Sally. They spent many Friday nights rolling back the carpet at Sally’s Baltimore home, dancing to hit records with other couples. They went out with friends Saturday nights after Arnold had worked 12 hours to earn enough money for the streetcar and date. On Sundays, they spent time alone, walking in Leakin Park.

During the month prior to Sally’s 16th birthday, though, Arnold didn’t call, and Sally was heartbroken. On her birthday weekend, Arnold finally did call, and on Sunday, they took their usual stroll.

As they sat on a park bench, Arnold gave Sally a present.

“I hope you will accept it,” said Arnold, then 19. “I really want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

He handed Sally a diamond ring.

On Sept. 4, 1949 at Chizuk Amuno Congregation, 100 guests witnessed their Orthodox nuptials. They endured 99-degree heat and toasted each other before honeymooning for a week in New York.

100314_beshert2They lived in a rented apartment for two years before Arnold was drafted for the Korean War. Sally joined him in California for a year and then moved in with her parents. Arnold returned home six months later.

They bought a house behind the Reisterstown Road Plaza and lived there for 12 years. Alan (in 1957), Scott (in 1959) and David (in 1960) were all born there. They moved to Randallstown in 1969.

Sally raised the boys and then went into teaching. Arnold worked as an engineer for WJZ-TV; he was the driving force behind the station’s mobile photography trucks. He retired in 1988 and then went to culinary school.

They love traveling and have visited such places as Rome, Athens, Israel, Russia, China and Mexico. They continue their rituals of a good-morning kiss and dinner every night together.

After a party for their 25th anniversary and a “second wedding” for their 50th, the Rifkins were happy to celebrate over a romantic dinner on the Eastern Shore and a few days in Cape May.

“I feel the same as I’ve always felt,” said Sally, 83.

“It’s hard to believe,” said Arnold, 86, when he thinks of their 65 years of marriage. “There probably won’t be another 65, but I hope it’s a little longer.”

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email Linda.Esterson@verizon.net.

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