Lou Basso of Smithtown recalls his courtship with future wife, Diane.
I vaguely remember my future wife, Diane Mazzenga, asking me to go steady in our kindergarten class at the former Marion Carll Elementary School/Turnpike School in Commack. Diane denies it to this day.
After kindergarten, Diane transferred to what was St. Joseph’s Elementary School in Kings Park. We became classmates again in sixth grade at the former Winnicomac Elementary School in Commack. I lived in Smithtown, and Diane lived in Commack.
We went on to Commack High School and, in our junior year, Diane asked me to be her date for a Sadie Hawkins Dance, a dance to which girls traditionally asked boys as dates. I accepted, and at that dance we knew there was something special between us.
Our friendship grew as we shared experiences at school and worked together at a summer day camp in Fort Salonga. I took Diane on her first ride with me in a two-seat go-cart at the camp. We soon began dating. We were 16.
Diane and I graduated from high school in 1970. I began classes at Memphis State University in Tennessee while Diane attended Rider University in New Jersey. The time apart made us realize we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. I decided to transfer to Adelphi University in Garden City in 1971. This allowed us to see each other on weekends.
In our junior year, I invited Diane to celebrate her birthday at Top of the Sixes in Manhattan. I arranged for the lights to be dimmed at a certain time. As the lights dimmed, Diane thought it was a signal that the restaurant was about to close. That’s when I proposed to her — and she said yes.
During our senior year in college, Diane did accounting work for Telephonics Corp. in Farmingdale. I was working in the human resources field, and I had landscaping and snowplowing side jobs. During school breaks, she accompanied me on my snowplowing route. While I stayed warm operating the truck, she would be out in the cold helping shovel walkways. At one point, we ran a mini-doughnut machine business together at a local flea market. Our hard work paid off. We purchased our first home in Kings Park before we graduated in 1974.
On July 14, 1974, we were married at St. Joseph’s Parish in Kings Park. Our reception was held at the Summit Inn in Smithtown. We honeymooned at Elbow Beach in Bermuda. Then we moved into our house.
There are times when Diane thinks I am crazy. Like when I pushed her into doing triathlons with me when we were 50 years old, and then an Ironman competition in upstate Lake Placid last year when we turned 65. We completed the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run in roughly 16 hours. Diane finished third among the women in her age group. Our two children and all five grandchildren were there and ran with us up the last hill.
Our vacations are active ones, with trips to Ireland, France, Italy and Switzerland. We have biked in the Alps and recently did a bicycle tour in Mallorca, Spain.
Early in our marriage, Diane ran a clothing business while doing the accounting for small businesses. She later joined her family's business, Wickers Performance Wear, where she later became president. She retired from Wickers in 2016 and is now an independent licensed insurance agent. I am the co-founder of Alcott HR, a human resource management company headquartered in Farmingdale.
Every day, I feel blessed to have such a great marriage and family — and for having met my wife and best friend in kindergarten class six decades ago.
— With Virginia Dunleavy