Rosemary Pisani said that when she met Lou, it wasn’t love at first sight.
“I didn’t even pay attention to him,” she said. “I didn’t realize he was there, but he realized I was there.”
The couple have been married for 60 years, so he managed to get her attention eventually.
“I think he’s the romantic one, but he doesn’t show it publicly,” Rosemary said. “He never did.”
“She’s the romantic one,” Lou countered. “She remembers all the dates.”
The pair met in college when native Las Vegan Rosemary Mikulich was attending graduate classes at the University of San Francisco. World War II veteran Lou Pisani came from across the bay in Oakland, Calif., and although he was going to school there, the classes weren’t his primary interest.
“I went to school there myself,” said one of the couple’s daughters, Linda Pisani. “One of my teachers said, ‘I remember Lou Pisani. He was in the ball field more than the classroom.’ ”
Lou said he first noticed Rosemary because of her long auburn hair but soon found she wasn’t just a pretty face.
“We took the same classes,” Lou said. “She’s the one that had all the brains, so I was there alongside her to get information on our studies.”
Soon, Lou graduated from admiring her looks and cribbing notes to romance.
“Remember the junior prom at USF?” Lou reminisced to Rosemary. “That was the first time I wore a tuxedo, and you were all dressed up with your hair up and so on.”
Lou was impressed with her moves on the dance floor.
“She could dance,” he said. “I learned to dance from her. She could jitterbug. I didn’t know how to jitterbug back then. When you give me slow music, like the ‘Tennessee Waltz,’ I can move pretty good. I was pretty agile on my feet. This fast stuff nowadays … I’ll take the old songs, the old music, the slow music.”
After college, Rosemary returned to Las Vegas, where she taught at the Fifth Street and Sunrise Acres elementary schools and helped out in the family motel business. Her father emigrated from Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1914 and operated the Las Vegas Cafe from the early 1920s until 1936. With the money from the sale of the cafe, he purchased the block at Fremont and Tenth streets for $70,000 and opened the Ambassador Auto Court. When Lou first visited Las Vegas in 1952, the family was in the midst of expansion, adding a second building.
Lou came back to town to visit on New Year’s Day, 1953, to pop the question.
“I thought New Year’s was a good time to ask,” he said. “She accepted me, and here we are, 60 years later. Where has the time gone?”
Rosemary made the arrangements, and Lou returned in August for the marriage at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church. The service was a Catholic Mass at noon in summer.
“There was a swamp cooler, but Lou was still sweating,” Rosemary said. “It was quite the gala at that time in Las Vegas. It was a much smaller city. ”
Lou’s dream was to coach high school sports, and through Rosemary’s family dentist, who was on the school board, Lou got a job teaching at Crestwood Elementary School when it opened. For five years, he volunteered as a coach at Las Vegas High School, until he was hired by the school. He worked there 30 years.
“They still call me ‘Coach Lou,’ even though I’m semiretired,” he said.
Their first child came within a year of their marriage, and the couple did less dancing at the Twin Lakes Lodge and the Silver Slipper and spent more time raising their family and settling into their first home at the corner of Decatur Boulevard and Hayes Place. The nearest road that connected the neighborhood to downtown was Charleston Boulevard.
“We never locked our doors,” Rosemary said.
The couple still fondly remember going to movies on Friday nights at the El Portal Theatre and attending the big high school football games, which nearly the whole town went to.
“Our favorite thing to do together was to go to church on Sunday and then go out the get a bite to eat,” Rosemary said. “We’d go to brunch at the Sahara,the Riviera, the Tropicana and the Flamingo. They had great food.”
The couple saw some of the biggest names of the day at the casinos. They recall seeing Liberace, Elvis Presley, Mitzi Gaynor, Dinah Shore, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra and others.
“I would have my beer, and she’d have her Shirley Temple,” Lou said.
“They had family night at the Flamingo,” Rosemary said. “Believe it or not, it was $3.50.”
The couple say that love, commitment, faith and compatibility are what brought them through 60 years of marriage.
“You better understand each other,” Lou said. “It’s a 50/50 proposition. You have to give in, and your partner has to give in. When you’re young and romance is in the air, it goes by so quickly, it’s hard to believe. Marriage isn’t perfect. What causes the problems is money and not making enough. That’s what causes a lot of disturbance in the family.”
Lou admits that his coaching kept him away from the family a lot, and that caused some tension in the marriage.
“Women want to be treated well, and the honeymoon doesn’t last forever,” Lou said.
“Ours has,” Rosemary said.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at email@example.com or 702-380-4532.