Rick Ferry

Nancy and Rick Ferry hold the oldest of their eight grandchildren, Zach Lattanzio, now 21. The Ferrys grew up across the street from each other in Brooklyn, N.Y., but moved to Cape May County in 1973 after they were married.

Photo provided by Ferry family

Rick Ferry married the girl from across the street, and they stayed married for 52 years until he died last month at 73.

But that doesn’t mean this was a classic case of love at first sight — at least for the girl across the street.

“I used to think he was incredibly pompous,” the former Nancy Caldwell admits now, with a laugh. “I didn’t like him at all.”

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Rick and Nancy ended up living and raising two girls and two boys in Wildwood Crest, then Lower Township. But when they met in the 1950s, they were in busy, bustling Brooklyn, N.Y.

He grew up in a brownstone, and she was in a high-rise across a one-way street. By the time her family got there, Rick was well known in the neighborhood. And what Nancy heard about him, she didn’t like.

“I knew his girlfriends — they were my girlfriends, too,” she explains. One thing they told her was, “He thought he was always right.”

Once, Rick saved Nancy’s then-boyfriend from getting beaten up on the street. She still wasn’t sold.

They went to different schools, and didn’t see much of each other for long stretches. But after high school, they were regulars at the same soda fountain — she as a customer, he as a soda jerk.

One day, Rick asked if she was still seeing her boyfriend. Nancy said no.

“And he said, ‘OK, then we’re going out to dinner tonight,’” she says.

By then, she had already started changing her opinion of him. Rick was in college, at Villanova, and “he wasn’t trying to impress anybody anymore,” she says. “He grew up.”

Once they got together, things moved fast. They were married before his senior year, and around his graduation, in 1961, they had a baby, Lynn. Eleven months later, they had another daughter, Nancy — whose mother wanted to name her Elizabeth.

“But (Rick) changed the birth certificate,” the elder Nancy says. “He said, ‘I love the name Nancy.’”

They lived outside Philadelphia and Rick got into insurance. That led to a job with a Wildwood Crest agency, so the Ferrys moved there in 1973. Later, he moved to the current Marsh McLennan agency in Cape May, and the family bought a place by the bay in Lower Township.

Daughter Nancy Loteck, of Cape May Court House, says her dad was a strict guy — maybe because he remembered his days on the streets back in Brooklyn. But the older daughter, Lynn Lattanzio, of Purchase, N.Y., adds that “he was much better as grandfather. I think he mellowed with age. He was very happy to just be the good guy, and let us do the disciplining.”

He loved playing golf, watching sports — especially hockey and the Philadelphia Flyers — and being with his family. He also loved that girl across the street. And yes, the feeling was definitely mutual.

A Life Lived appears Tuesdays and Saturdays.

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