Christine and James Kern of East Islip met at work...

Christine and James Kern of East Islip met at work in 1990. The couple celebrated their 22nd anniversary this year. Credit: Kern family

James Kern of East Islip recalls the day he met future wife Christine.

In 1990, I was 21 and working part time for Playworld toy store in Lake Success while studying computer programming at SUNY Stony Brook. My sister, who worked for Playworld at the Sunrise Mall in our hometown of Massapequa, thought it would be fun to volunteer me to play a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle at her store.

So on July 20, I went to the mall and met the store's assistant manager, Christine Galatioto. She was 27 and lived in North Massapequa. I donned the turtle suit and played the part. Little did I know that Christine was developing a crush on me.

I didn't see her again until the fall. Classes were starting and I planned to transfer to the Patchogue store to be closer to campus. My sister and Christine had other plans, though, and managed to get me transferred instead to Playworld's Toy Hut kiosk in Sunrise Mall.

Not long after starting the job, I began to find smiley faces from Christine on my time cards. For Christmas, she gave me a chocolate computer. In January, after I found a rose on my car with a note that said "Just because," I finally woke up to the fact that she was gently pursuing me. I asked her out immediately. We went to see a movie at the mall and then continued dating.

On July 20, 1991, I bumbled my way through what was supposed to be a quiet, romantic trip to Fire Island Sunken Forest where I planned to propose to Christine. Well, we got on the wrong ferry in Bay Shore and ended up on a very crowded public beach. As we stood at the water's edge with our backs to the ocean, we got pummeled by a wave. I panicked. I felt for the engagement ring in my pocket. It was still there.

We took the ferry back and stopped at Argyle Park in Babylon, where we stood by the lake. Christine was facing the water when I got on my knee behind her with the ring in my outstretched hand. I said her name and she turned around. She was completely taken by surprise and began to stagger a bit. I had to grab her before she fell backward into the lake. Then she said yes. We were married on May 1, 1993.

Christine and James Kern on their wedding day, May 1,...

Christine and James Kern on their wedding day, May 1, 1993. Credit: Kern family

Christine is a full-time homemaker and quite the expert at it, too. I'm a software engineer at Honeywell in Melville. We have a daughter who makes us very proud.

In May we celebrated our 22nd anniversary. My wife's love and perseverance are simply amazing. Despite debilitating physical challenges from fibromyalgia, she constantly pushes through and does so much for our family. She is an inspiration to me.

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