A HAPPY GLORIA Vitolo is acting like a teenager again after reconnecting with Mason Smith, 45 years after breaking up . . . as teenagers.
Love's labor found four decades later
By Jeanne Sager
BETHEL She walked into the dance, a 15-year-old among older teens, adults even. And there he was.
“He’s tall, so I saw him across the room, cute as could be,” Gloria Vitolo recalls.
It was 1957 in the Bronx, and all it took was one dance. Gloria then Gloria Capalbo and Mason Smith were a couple.
Fast forward 45 years and Gloria Vitolo was living in Bethel, recently retired from the Sullivan County Office for the Aging, enjoying her three kids and seven grandchildren.
On Sept. 2, 2008, she came home to find a Virginia phone number on her caller ID with the name, Smith, Mason.
“I was screaming all over the house,” Vitolo said. “I was acting like a teenager, and I didn’t scream like that when I was a teenager.”
She didn’t think. She dialed.
It was him.
The man she hadn’t seen since 1963, the last time he came home from the service and asked her to marry him.
Vitolo said no then, she says, because she was scared.
She was three years younger than Smith, who had joined the service in 1960 thinking it would provide a life for the two of them. He’d asked her then to marry him, and she was still in high school, still unsure of where she was going.
“To me, marriage is forever, and I wasn’t even graduated yet… He went away and didn’t write very much, and I panicked at that point,” Vitolo says.
Still Smith persisted. He came home on leave in 1963 and asked again. Vitolo blanched. She was raised in the Bronx, her family was in the Bronx. She thought becoming a military wife would mean living on a base somewhere while her husband was overseas.
“We parted as friends there was never any fight or bad words,” Vitolo explained.
The two moved on, married, had children.
“We had our lives,” as Vitolo says.
Then Smith’s kids gave him a computer. He went online and started looking for Gloria. She’d been married, so her last name was changed, but her brother was still Capalbo.
Smith’s sister says he always talked about Gloria, about where she might be, how she was faring. But in the past year, he’d gotten more focused.
When he found her brother online, he asked for her phone number.
“He didn’t ask if I was married or anything, he said he just had to know I was OK,” Vitolo says, her eyes dancing, grinning the wide grin daughter Theresa says has been fixed across her face since the fall.
“She’s really ridiculously happy,” Theresa said. “She was just acting like she was 15 again!”
Vitolo’s kids knew about Mason. Their mom had purchased china when she was mulling marriage, china the family called “the Mason china,” when they ate off of it.
Vitolo had an ankle bracelet too, a piece given to her by Smith when she was a teenager that she pulled out on a whim last spring and took to her jeweler in Honesdale, PA, to have fixed.
At the time she said she didn’t know why she was bothering. Now she knows it was a sign of things to come.
After that first call, the couple spoke on the phone every night for a week, spoke for hours.
“It felt like no time has passed in 47 years,” Vitolo said. “We just picked up where we left off.”
On September 10, Smith left his home in Virginia and made the trip north to Bethel, a place he hadn’t been since a trip with Vitolo to her grandparents’ home in the Catskills, the place where she’s lived since the 1970s and raised her kids.
Smith has long since retired from a civilian position working for the military, and he told Vitolo he had time he wasn’t leaving New York unless she came with him.
On Oct. 1, Vitolo left her home in Bethel for Virginia with a heart-shaped diamond ring on her finger.
The couple is engaged to be married this year.
“I’m very proud of my kids, I had good parents, I had so many things,” Vitolo says. “I was appreciative of life before, but after this… I don’t want to miss anything.
“We had a very, very nice relationship as teenagers, he was such a well-mannered teenager, even at 18, and he still is,” she continued. “He has me laughing every day.”
Vitolo doesn’t look at the 45 years gone by as a missed opportunity both had the chance to have their children (he has four to her three) and their grandchildren, to experience different things.
“It probably wasn’t meant to be then, but obviously we were meant to be!” she said.