Rosemarie has always had a thing for Irish men.
It has a lot to do with her feelings for her father, James Lagville, an Irish American who died in 1989. Her mother Phyllis, a pretty Italian American woman, married James when Rosemarie was two years old in 1965 and he was the only father Rosemarie had known.
An only child, Rosemarie had a very happy and traditional upbringing in the tiny and close-knit town of Guttenberg, NJ, which is just a stone's throw away from Manhattan.
Rosemarie and I grew up together in Guttenberg in the 70s and like many childhood friends we drifted apart for many years as we raised our families. Rosemarie and I reconnected a few years back and when she learned I would be visiting Arizona, where she currently lives, she invited me to lunch. We met in an Irish Pub in Mesa and she brought her Irish American husband Jimmy along. Jimmy is a gentle and a quiet man and the love he and Rosemarie share was evident during the time I spent with them. It was so heart-warming to see two middle-aged people so smitten with each other.
She told me she found her soulmate and she was blissfully happy. I loved how Rosemarie called Jimmy, "My Jimmy." I liked him and I was happy he made my friend so happy. I was thrilled Rosemarie finally found her true love.
I was curious where they met, "You both are so perfect for each other, where did you meet?" I certainly wasn't expecting what came next.
They looked at each other and smiled as Jimmy gently took Rosemarie's hand, "You tell her." Rosemarie took a deep breath, "We met in prison."
I laughed. I thought she was kidding. She wasn't.
We clearly had a lot of catching up to do.
When Rosemarie's father died at the age of 46, she took it hard. She has also struggled with her weight her entire life. She yearned for an escape from the pain and that's what first led her to drugs. Drugs did numb the pain from the loss she felt and drugs also made her feel better about herself. What began as recreational quickly turned into an addiction she could not afford on her bookkeeper's salary. She was spiraling out of control when she made what she calls a terrible decision to embezzle money from her employer.
She was charged and convicted of fraud and forgery and she was sentenced to serve three years in Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Clinton, NJ. She had to serve one year before she would become eligible for parole. Being in prison made her feel even more terrible about herself. She had plenty of time to think about all of the mistakes she had made.
Seven months into her sentence a fellow inmate confided she had a prisoner pen pal who had a roommate who was seeking a pen pal of his own. He was a single man who also had made some mistakes in his life. Her fellow inmate friend handed her a piece of paper and when Rosemarie looked down she read it, "Jimmy Donohue #294485, Bayside State Prison, Hammonton, NJ."
He had the same first name as her father and when she saw his Irish last name she decided to write him a letter. One week later she received a response from Jimmy, who had been battling addiction issues of his own. Before long they were writing each other every day. The letters gave each of them something to look forward to. Rosemarie was released five months later but Jimmy had another year to serve.
Shortly after being home, Rosemarie relapsed and committed the same crime again in New York State. There would be more relapses in her future as she struggled to fight her addiction problem. She just didn't see a way out and she had lost all hope. She was sent back to prison to serve her new sentence in New York State. Jimmy had been released and he sent Rosemarie a letter which arrived on Valentine's Day in 2003 along with money and a picture of him. The letters would continue until Rosemarie's release in October 2003. Just a few days later Jimmy drove to her house and they met for the first time. When Rosemarie looked into his eyes she knew she would spend the rest of her life with him.
They fell in love and married on July 5, 2004, in Denville, NJ.
There would be one final relapse together and they both found themselves back in prison.
But this time was different. They missed each other terribly and they wanted to be together. They both finally found the love they only dreamed about and they were now separated. They had messed up their lives and they knew they had no one to blame but themselves. They had a small glimpse of the happy life they could have together if they could only overcome their addiction issues. They were pen pals again now as husband and wife and the three and a half years they served in prison before they were released for the final time, seemed like an eternity. They were both exhausted from a life of crime and drugs and they knew the only way they could be together would be if they stayed clean.
They vowed to beat their addiction together.
Rosemarie now had a strong desire to better herself and she put a plan into motion. They were both released in 2009. Rosemarie was able to care for her mother before she died in 2010. Rosemarie went back to school and now drug-free she was able to maintain good grades. She graduated with a degree in psychology. Rosemarie and Jimmy worked hard and saved and they got their own place together. Rosemarie interviewed with her current boss for a secretary's position and she laid all of her cards on the table during the interview telling him all about her turbulent past. He hired her anyway.
Today Rosemarie is the Chief Operating Officier of the company and her boss became a dear friend. Jimmy also works for the same company and they enjoy a comfortable life together in Arizona. Rosemarie's son, Billy, age 30, lives with them. When they are not working they are very happy staying at home watching Netflix with their cats. They feed and care for a couple of neighborhood strays too. They also enjoying donating and volunteering in their community helping homeless people.
Rosemarie told me they spend all of their time together and they hold hands even when they are riding in the car. They go to sleep at 9:30 pm each night and before they fall asleep they hold hands together and they pray. They thank God for the good life they now have and they thank God they survived the horror of drug addiction. They are so filled with gratitude for the peaceful and stable life they now have. They feel blessed beyond measure.
They know they have made plenty of mistakes in the past but they only look to the future now.
Mostly, they're just happy they found each other.