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Chester County Press

The force has been with them

04/20/2016 12:38PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Steven Hoffman
Staff Writer

On Sept. 23, 1977, Philip Wengloski asked his friend, Ann Hesse, out on a date. He was a freshman in college. She was a senior in high school in Lebanon, Connecticut, the town where they had both grown up. Philip and Ann decided that they would go see “Star Wars” that evening. Four months after its release, the movie was on its way to becoming a cultural phenomenon. Watching it sounded like a pretty good way to spend a Friday night.
“I was excited to see “Star Wars,” Ann recalled. “It just looked like a cool movie.”
Indeed, like millions of other movie-goers that summer a long time ago, Philip and Ann loved George Lucas's epic space saga and the adventures of Luke, Han, and Leia as they battled against Darth Vader and the evil Galactic Empire. It was a great movie with a lively story, even though it wasn't exactly romantic.
But for Philip and Ann, there was romance in the air that night as they enjoyed “Star Wars” and snacked at Friendly's afterward. That night marked the beginning of their love story.
“It was definitely magical,” Ann explained. “We both knew that it was going to be a special relationship.”
Hit the hyperdrive and fast forward nearly thirty-nine years. Today, Philip and Ann Wengloski live in Landenberg. He is a nuclear engineer with Exelon Generation in Kennett Square. She is a speech pathologist for a school in Delaware. They still celebrate Sept. 23, the anniversary of their first date, as well as other important dates like their wedding anniversary and the birthdays of their two children. Lindsay, 28, lives in Wisconsin, and Joe, 26, resides in Virginia.
Philip and Ann both find it hard to believe that before too long it will be four decades since the night of their first date.
“When you're 10,” Ann explained, “summer lasts forever. But, as you get older, you realize how quickly time passes.”
The couple settled in Landenberg last year after a 14-year stay in Maryland when Philip's job transferred to Exelon.
“We love the area,” Ann explained. “It has a nice, comfortable kind of feeling.”
“It reminds us of our eastern Connecticut roots,” Philip added.
The seeds for the relationship between Philip and Ann were planted in Lebanon, a small farming town that is 20 miles east of Hartford and just to the northwest of Norwich. The town is best known for being a base of American operations during the American Revolution. Gov. Jonathan Trumbull, Sr. was the only British colonial governor to side the American forces during the Revolution, and he directed Connecticut's war effort on Lebanon's town green. Trumbull was an important ally to Gen. George Washington, and his children were also influential in the war effort: his son, Joseph, was  a colonel in the Continental Army; Jonathan was secretary to Gen. Washington; and John served first as a soldier and then as a personal aide to Gen. Washington during the war. The Trumbull family, and the town of Lebanon itself, was so important to the war effort that it earned the nickname, “Heartbeat of the Revolution.”
The town offered Philip and Ann an idyllic American childhood. Ann recalls that, while they weren't childhood sweethearts, their lives kept intersecting with each other. They went to the same schools and their families belonged to the same church.
Once, when she was in fifth grade, Ann attended a church event that was taking place at a local elementary school. Her father owned a blue Galaxy Ford Five Hundred at the time. When the event was over, she went out and hopped into the first blue Galaxie Five Hundred that she saw. It turned out that Philip's father had the exact same car. When she realized the mistake, the fifth-grader was so embarrassed that she asked Mr. Wengloski not to tell his son what she had done.
“I got out of that car so fast,” Ann said with a laugh.
They were one grade apart in school, but Philip and Ann would occasionally have the same class together. They also became better friends through church activities. By the time they went to see “Star Wars” together on that memorable night in September of 1977, they already knew that they liked each other.
Before long, they realized that they loved each other. The couple got engaged in 1981. They were married in 1982.
While it has been said that opposites attract, this couple has more similarities than differences. They obviously have a great deal of respect and affection for each other. When they talk, it's clear that they are continually on the same wavelength, as only couples who've been married for 34 years can be. To put it simply, they have a relationship that is worthy of one of those terrific “When Harry Met Sally,” vignettes where the couples talk about how they were destined to spend their lives with one another.
Still, there are some differences.
He packs in about five minutes while she will spend days preparing for a trip.
When Philip is pressed to identify one way in which he and Ann are different, he quips, “She's more bossy than I am.”
“It's called structure, Phil,” she replies without missing a beat.
According to Ann, there are no secrets to being a happy couple, although the couple has shared some of what they've learned during weekend retreats with engaged couples who are preparing themselves for marriage. She said that humor and faith are essential ingredients to a strong relationship. Humor helps because, in life, things are going to happen. And faith because, well, in life, things are going to happen.
“Faith is very important to us,” Ann explained.
They also make sure to listen to one another and do small things for each other. He will leave notes for her around the house. She also hides little notes for him when he travels—notes with inspirational quotes or short messages to let him know that she is thinking of him.
“Just doing things for each other—that's important,” she said.
Little traditions that they share as a couple are important, too. They still like going to the movies, and they will often follow it up with a visit to Friendly's, just as they did on their first date.
In early January, Philip and Ann went to see the latest installment of the space saga, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The movie, directed by J.J. Abrams, quickly became the top-grossing movie of all-time, and reminded a new generation about how great the Star Wars story is.
“It was awesome,” Ann said. “The creativity behind it all is amazing.”
Philip noted that the place that Star Wars has in pop culture is rather unique in that there aren't many stories that endure for 40 years.
According to their daughter, Lindsay, Philip and Ann's relationship has had many endearing details that seem cinematic.
“They grew up less than a mile apart in the same small Connecticut farm town and played on the same playground,” she said. “And then, to begin their relationship with a movie date to see “Star Wars: A New Hope”? The intersection of that relationship milestone and a pop-culture watershed always struck me as romantic. So to  celebrate their anniversary this year with another Star Wars movie date—that's picture-perfect.”

To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email [email protected]