Anna and Louis Russo of Coram are celebrating 60 happy years of marriage this year. Louis recalls how it all started.
Our first date was in the summer of 1951. Anna's friend was dating a buddy of mine, and they arranged for us to meet on a double date. My friend had a car and drove us all to Coney Island. We enjoyed a day at the arcade and rides on the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone roller coaster.
Anna was 16 and I was 20. We lived a couple of blocks from each other in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, but had never met before. We continued dating after that.
A few months later, I brought Anna home for Sunday dinner to meet my Italian family, which included two brothers and four sisters. Three of my sisters and one brother were married to Italians, as was expected. And here comes Anna O'Brien; she was very nervous.
As we entered the dining room, my father was seated at the head of the table. He looked at Anna and pointed to a chair next to him, then poured her a glass of wine. She drank with him, and after that they loved each other. And like me, my siblings loved her from the start.
She was amazed at the size of our family and at the size of the meal. It was a typical Italian Sunday dinner with many courses of food.
We were married on June 6, 1953, at St. Ambrose Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant. What a wedding! The reception was held at Lenruth Hall in what is now the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn. We had no money, but my mother kept inviting people. There were 350 guests. We made sandwiches the night before and, yes, it was a "football" wedding, where guests passed the sandwiches to each other and the beer and wine flowed like water.
I went into the Army that November and was assigned to Germany for an 18-month stint with the Signal Corps as a lineman. We were living with my sister and her husband in Lynbrook at the time. It was hard being without my wife.
When I got out of the Army in 1955, I went into the printing business and at one point owned Rotarex Press in Manhattan. The following year we bought a home in Valley Stream, where we raised seven terrific children. We now have 12 wonderful grandchildren.
Anna was working as a bookkeeper and later as an accountant with Lane, Lipton and Paley in Valley Stream. We both retired in 1998 and moved to Bretton Woods in Coram, where we have so many friends. Anna played golf and tennis with me until recently, but she still enjoys playing bocce ball. I also sing with the community's Players' Club.
We are two of the luckiest people in the world to have all our family and friends all of these years.