NORMA AND WILSON Sanchez met a half-century ago at a dance - and Wilson was on his way to another dance Saturday night when a pickup truck slammed into him on a Northeast Philadelphia street.
Wilson Sanchez, 75, and his wife had planned to meet at the dance, a periodic event held at the Northeast Older Adult Center on Bustleton Avenue in Rhawnhurst. Norma went ahead to help set up the event. Her husband was to join her after the festivities got underway.
But he never made it. Just before 9 p.m., as Wilson Sanchez crossed Bustleton after parking his car across the busy street from the Older Adult Center, a Ford F-250 slammed into the father of two as he walked across the southbound lanes midblock between Solly Avenue and Stanwood Street. Police said he was about 100 feet from the door when he was hit.
When Norma saw the police lights flashing outside the dance, she said a prayer for whoever had been hurt. It never crossed her mind that it could be her husband of nearly 47 years.
"I figured he changed his mind" about coming to the dance, Norma told the Daily News.
After the dance, she went home. It was there that a police officer somberly knocked on her door and said her husband had been hurt and taken to Aria Health's Torresdale hospital. Norma and daughters Michele Lebron, 45, and Sharon Sanchez, 43, arrived at the hospital a short while later. But their patriarch was already gone.
"They told us to sit down, and we said a prayer, and we got bad news," Lebron said.
In the wake of Wilson Sanchez's tragic death, his widow and Lebron spent time this week remembering the happy times instead of dwelling on their grief.
They remembered him as a gregarious, generous and loving husband and father - the kind of man who wins hearts and lights up a room, and was so charming that he even made his wife a little nervous when they first met.
"He was a ladies man!" Norma Sanchez exclaimed, warmly recalling that she initially had rebuffed Wilson's advances. "He was a good dancer, a good dresser. I didn't like guys like that. All the girls loved him. I thought, 'I want someone for myself.' "
But Wilson - as was his stubborn nature - persisted. Eventually, he won his sweetheart.
He was a textile cutter for most of his life, ultimately retiring from a job with PECO.
Tomorrow, Norma Sanchez and her family will lay Wilson to rest. A viewing and services will be held beginning at 10 a.m. at Givnish Funeral Home, on Academy Road near Chalfont Drive.
Police said that the driver of the truck that hit Wilson Sanchez stopped at the scene, and that criminal charges are not likely.