When narrating in infinitesimal detail the story of his and Rosemary’s wedding, Joe would often say, “I think this whole thing was planned in heaven. Some saint was taking care of us.”
Chapter one was always “The Letter.” And Chapter two was “The Ring.”
When Joe graduated from high school in 1934, his mother gave him a diamond. She said, “Some day you may have use for this.”
When he joined the Navy, this diamond was the only thing of value that he owned. Before leaving home for basic training, Joe gave it to his sister. It was not a big or impressive stone, perhaps only a quarter of a carat. But for Joe Flynn in the summer of 1940, it was as close as he was every going to come to owning the Hope Diamond. “Mary, you take care of this,” he told her. “If I ever need it, I’ll let you know. And if I never need it, it’s yours.”
Rosemary’s letter in response to his proposal was of filled with words. But somehow “That’s a good idea” were the only ones that registered in Joe’s mind and memory. Those four words filled him with joy and hope and confidence in the future, all in a thrilling burst of emotion that seemed to begin in his toes and rush right up through the top of his head. The first conscious thought that followed this flood of emotion shaped itself into two very different words: “The diamond!”
That night, considerably calmed down after a full shift in the engine room had given him the opportunity to spend several hours thinking, Joe propped himself up in his bunk and wrote a letter to his sister. His plan involved Mary Leahy, whose sister was married to Rosemary’s brother, and who often traveled between her family’s home in South Weymouth and the offices of the Leahys’ sawdust business in New York. Joe instructed his sister Mary, to and ask Mary Leahy to find out what Rosemary’s ring size was. Then, Joe wrote, ” Take the diamond to a jeweler. Have a ring made as soon as possible, and give it to Mary Leahy the next time she was in Weymouth visiting home for the weekend.
All this was fairly quickly done. Once Mary Leahy had the ring in hand, she arranged to meet Rosemary. The two young women, who both worked in Manhattan, often met at a diner on 42nd Street, a place that was about half the distance between their two offices. Like most downtown eateries, at noon on a weekday, in New York, even in wartime, this one was mostly peopled by men.
In the midst of all those dark suits, the sight of two pretty young women in stylish clothes was a curiosity. Many eyes were on the pair throughout their meal, and especially afterwards, as Mary Leahy took a velvet ring box out of her purse and slid it across the table. Rosemary slowly opened the box, saw the ring, and started to cry. “Well at this point,” Joe’s narrative always went, “every guy in the place is looking at them.” With Rosemary still crying, Mary Leahy turned around and announced to the room, “It’s not what you think! Her boyfriend, who’s in the Navy, is out to sea. I’m just delivering the ring!”