Barbara & Frank Osinski
Frank returned home from his Naval ROTC midshipman cruise of the Mediterranean one day before the start of his senior year at Villanova and three days before the Delta Pi Epsilon party.
“I needed a date, but I had been completely out of touch for three months,” he remembered. “My sister had just started college, so I asked her if she knew anyone to set me up with.”
Barbara had hoped to spend the four years after high school studying art, but unable to persuade her parents that a daughter should have a bachelor’s degree, she was determined to make the most of two years on scholarship at what was Manor Junior College. At the fall 1964 meet-and-greet luncheon for freshmen, a girl she had never seen before asked Barbara if she would go to a frat party with her brother.
Barbara was stunned, but thinking the party sounded fun, she quickly recovered. “I’d like to see his picture,” she told Lorrie, who opened her wallet and revealed a photo of herself with a very handsome man.
“Oh, he’s cute!” exclaimed Barbara.
“No, not him — he’s mine,” said Lorrie.
Embarrassed about complimenting Lorrie’s boyfriend, Barbara barely looked at the photo of her brother before agreeing to the date.
Frank was gentlemanly when he called the next day, and at the door of her South Philadelphia home, “he was nice-looking and well dressed,” Barbara said.
Lorrie hadn’t told Frank a thing about Barbara, but “I realized she had obviously picked out the prettiest girl in her class,” he said.
The two enjoyed the party and more dates followed. But Barbara didn’t want to be serious with anyone, as she had big plans for herself: finish her degree, find work, further her education. After six weeks of dating Frank, she reconsidered. “He was too good to pass up, and I fell in love with him,” she said. “He is such a solid, good, and loyal person, and if I also wanted to be married and have a family, I thought my chances of getting it right were best with him.”
Frank, who grew up in King of Prussia and is now 77, got a little choked up hearing her words. “I’m honored that she said that, to hear that from such a quality person,” he said. Frank similarly had not been seeking anything serious but fell hard for Barbara, who is now 74. “She was one of the most beautiful young ladies I had ever seen, but when I learned more about her, she had other qualities that were just as good if not better than her physical appearance,” he said. “She is a kind, generous, sincere person who looks out for others, who puts others ahead of herself. In other words, I love everything about her.”
They had begun planning a life together by the time Frank graduated with his economics degree in June 1965, but there was something he had to do first.
Fulfilling another promise — to the Navy
“I would be on the Intrepid, and my ship was scheduled to go to Vietnam the following spring,” he said. “I knew I would be gone for at least eight months, but after that, who knew what could happen? The war was getting serious and there were many, many unknowns.”
Frank was on a combat mission but is careful to clarify he was a division officer on an aircraft carrier, not a pilot in constant danger.
Barbara and Frank wrote lots of letters, supplemented with reel-to-reel recordings, Barbara said. “We would send each other tapes of us speaking, and we had one special song that we would always play for each other: ‘Unchained Melody’ by the Righteous Brothers.”
“If you listen to the words of that song, it was absolutely perfect for us,” said Frank.
Barbara completed her legal secretary studies at Manor and sent Frank her graduation photo, which he kept on a bedside shelf in his stateroom.
Near Thanksgiving 1966, the Intrepid docked in Norfolk, Va. Among the cheering crowd were Frank’s parents and Barbara, who held a handmade sign: “Welcome Home, Lt. j.g. Frank J. Osinski Jr.!”
Frank would be stationed in Norfolk for his last eight months of service, but he had a short leave and wanted to make the most of it.
“I came back alive, so it was a success,” he said. “What was I waiting for?”
At their table in a fancy Conshohocken restaurant, Frank opened a small box, held it so Barbara could see what was inside, and asked her to marry him.
She lunged excitedly for the box. “Oh no!” he said, laughing and moving it out of her reach. “You didn’t say yes yet!”
“Yes!” she said, flashing Frank the smile that Lorrie had told her was the reason she wanted her to be Frank’s frat party date. Frank put a ring on Barbara’s finger.
Come what may
The couple married Aug. 5, 1967, at St. Richard’s Catholic Church in South Philadelphia. At a reception for 120 held at a now defunct country club on City Avenue, they danced to “Unchained Melody.”
They got an apartment in Lansdale to make their careers work with one car — Barbara was a secretary at Merck, and Frank took the train to Center City, where he was a stockbroker for a firm that eventually became part of Oppenheimer.
Barbara had been promoted to legal secretary by the time she left to give birth to twin boys. David now lives in Alexandria, Va., with his wife, Michele, and three children. Craig had congenital heart problems and lived only five weeks.
Losing Craig was the hardest thing either of them have ever been through. Yet “I consider us to be very lucky,” Barbara said. “A lot of couples don’t survive the loss of a child.”
“We had strong family support, and we had a child to take care of,” Frank said. They focused their love on David and then on a third child, Dina. Dina and her husband, Todd, now live in Beltsville, Md.
Frank retired from Oppenheimer as a senior vice president of investment in 2013. Early in his career, he had many night meetings. “She supported me while I did that,” he said.
When David and Dina grew more independent, Barbara enrolled in night classes at Drexel, and Frank wanted to support her as she had supported him. “What can I do?” he asked. “If you could take care of the food shopping and meals, I think I can finish a year earlier,” she told him. David and Dina still joke about eating dad’s soup all week long.
Barbara graduated in 1989 with a degree in art history from Arcadia, then earned her master’s in arts administration from Drexel. She retired as a Portraits Inc. portrait broker — the person who matches someone who wants a portrait painted with the right artist — in 2015.
Still on board
The couple moved from the Ambler house where they raised their family back to Lansdale, where they live in a 55+ community for the part of the year when they aren’t in Naples, Fla.
They play a lot of golf, together or with friends. They like to travel and had planned a trip to Croatia, but with the pandemic revving up again, their focus has returned to activities that can be enjoyed while limiting risks.
“We just want to stay healthy so we can enjoy time together and seeing the grandchildren,” said Barbara. Kate attends Boston College. Ryan, a high school senior, has committed to pitch for Bucknell, and Caroline, the youngest, has begun eighth grade.
When traveling is more comfortable, Barbara and Frank also like to visit his former ship, now permanently docked in New York as the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
About eight years ago, the couple donated the scrapbook Barbara made of Frank’s photos and souvenirs from his Intrepid service to the museum. They witnessed the curator’s excitement when she saw a picture of Frank’s stateroom with Barbara’s framed Manor College graduation picture in the corner. How could they deny her request?
“We went to the ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the Intrepid’s commissioning, and as we walked through, there was Barbara on display in the officer’s stateroom,” said Frank. “Her picture is still there today.”