Craig and Carla Procida of West Islip, who met at...

Craig and Carla Procida of West Islip, who met at the Oak Beach Inn on Jones Beach Island in 1976, will celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary next week. She introduced herself to him on a dare. Credit: Procida family

Carla and Craig Procida of West Islip met on a dare made by her friends. Carla recalls what happened next.

On a balmy September night in 1976, my friends asked me to go to the Oak Beach Inn on Jones Beach Island. I was 18 and had recently ended a relationship. I did not want to go out, but they convinced me that it would do me good.

At the Inn, my friends noticed a young man standing alone. They thought he was cute and dared me to go over and introduce myself. My maiden name was Hoffman. I took them up on their dare!

Craig (the stranger) and I hit it off immediately. He was 20 and lived in West Islip. We both liked the Mets and the English rock band The Moody Blues. Later, we decided to walk on the beach, and when we returned I couldn't find my friend's car. I was quite upset that they had left without me. Craig offered to take me home to Westbury. He was a complete gentleman and I arrived home safely, although I waited 20 years before telling my parents I'd let a virtual stranger drive me home. My friend called me the next morning. They hadn't left me behind; I was looking in the wrong parking lot. They were upset because they thought I'd been kidnapped by this stranger. They waited before calling my house because they didn't want to upset my parents.

Craig (no longer a stranger) and I began seeing each other almost every night. He worked and also attended classes at Farmingdale State College. After class he would pick me up at my house. When he asked me to marry him in October 1977, I kidded him that he wanted to marry me so he didn't have to make that long drive between West Islip and Westbury anymore.

We wed on July 8, 1978. A few years later I was telling my mother-in-law about an aunt I would often visit in Jamaica, Queens. We discovered that my husband's cousin was the tenant who rented her upstairs apartment. Craig and I often wonder whether we ever crossed paths there when we were kids or even played together.

Craig is warehouse director and pastor at Lighthouse Mission in Bellport, a ministry that delivers meals to more than 3,000 people a week. I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2001, at which time I left my job as a commercial account executive at Edwards & Co. Insurance Agency in Sayville.

Carla and Craig Procida on their wedding day, July 8,...

Carla and Craig Procida on their wedding day, July 8, 1978. Credit: Procida family

We plan to go out to dinner to celebrate our 37th anniversary. We have gone through so much over the years, which has thankfully brought us closer than we have ever been. He is my best friend and love of my life!

Thank God, I am doing well despite the disease, and on occasion volunteer at the Mission. I look forward to the next chapter in our lives. The best is yet to come.

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