John Whimple of Miller Place recalls his first date with his future wife, Phyllis.

I met Phyllis Bernstein in 1972 through a group of friends in our Sheepshead Bay neighborhood in Brooklyn. She was 17 and I was 21. We would usually hang out at one friend’s house in particular on 16th Street.

I was always attracted to Phyllis but didn’t ask her on a date until four years later. At the time she worked at The Franklin Savings Bank in Sheepshead Bay and I was an officer with the NYPD. We both attended evening classes at Kingsborough Community College.

On Feb. 25, 1976, I stopped at her bank and asked if she would like to meet me after classes that night and go for coffee at our local Foursome Diner. She agreed, and we met that evening after class and walked over to my Volkswagen Beetle.

Once inside the car, I lit up a cigar before starting the engine. Phyllis was bothered by the smoke and politely said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t be in this small car with the cigar smoke.” I immediately rolled down my window and threw the cigar out. I had been smoking cigars since 1969 and enjoyed it, but that was the last time I ever smoked. I quit just to be with her, and she probably saved my life.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

From our first date we were a couple and spent all our time together. A few years later, we moved into an apartment in Brooklyn. I was eventually assigned to 1 Police Plaza in Manhattan as a detective, and she became an assistant treasurer with Chase Bank at 1 Chase Plaza, also in Manhattan. We would meet after work and go to dinner or just walk through Central Park. We always enjoyed walking long distances and still do. Time just kept passing, and we were very content and happy with our relationship.

Then, after 16 years as a couple, we decided to get married and start a family. On March 15, 1992, we had a small wedding at a friend’s home with just a handful of family members and friends.

The following year, I retired from the NYPD as a detective investigator.

We moved to Miller Place in 1994. Phyllis left Chase and worked first at HSBC bank for 16 years and is now a senior teller and financial service representative at Suffolk Federal Credit Union in Miller Place. I am a forensic instructor with Nassau and Suffolk BOCES. I also play guitar and sing at assisted living facilities on Long Island.

We’ve always celebrated the day of our first date, Feb. 25, by going back to the Foursome Diner. When it closed, we found many other ways to mark the occasion. This year, we stayed in a suite at the Waldorf Astoria. For our 25th wedding anniversary last month, we renewed our vows and then had a reception for 120 people at The Willow Creek Golf and Country Club in Mt. Sinai. Afterward, we and our son, an Army veteran, accompanied our daughter back to the Ft. Leonard Wood Army base in Missouri where she is now serving.

I am very lucky. Phyllis has made my life complete. She has given me two of the greatest children and has been such a wonderful wife. She is my best friend. We have been together for more than four decades now, and our love has only gotten stronger.

— With Virginia Dunleavy