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Long Island

Love took them by surprise

For a longtime married couple and a newly engaged one, meeting was a matter of happenstance.

On Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, longtime married couple Mark and Susan Quigley of Garden City talked about how they first connected 26 years ago during a charity bike race in Manhattan in 1991 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Back then, Susan was riding for her mother, who had the neurological disorder that disrupts the flow of information from the brain and can cause numbness or weakness in the limbs, vision loss, tremors and slurred speech. A quarter-century later, they ride for Susan, who was diagnosed in 2008 with MS. A chance meeting led to a lifetime together. (Credit: Newsday / Yeong-Ung Yang)

No swiping right was required for these Long Island love stories.

While some singles use a focused strategy of dating apps or matchmakers to search for a mate, others find them by happenstance.

Longtime married couple Mark and Susan Quigley of Garden City, and recently engaged Liz Marchisella of Sag Harbor and David Cataletto of East Hampton both stumbled into love when they didn’t realize they were looking for it. And each pair knew almost instantly that they had met “the one.”

Mark, 54, and Susan, 53, first connected 26 years ago during a charity bike race in Manhattan for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Back then, Susan was riding for her mother, who had the neurological disorder that disrupts the flow of information from the brain and can cause numbness or weakness in the limbs, vision loss, tremors and slurred speech. A quarter-century later they ride for Susan, who was diagnosed in 2008 with MS, which is incurable. A chance meeting led to a lifetime together.

“Both of us were at points in our lives where we were comfortable living alone,” Mark said. “I wasn’t looking for anybody on the bike tour.”

Liz, 34, and David, 39, met one another during their daily dog walks in the woods, and she said she knew she found her “person” by their second conversation.

“I was really guarded and he made me shine,” she said.

MARK AND

SUSAN QUIGLEY

She was bubbly and easy to talk to. He was well-educated, friendly and spending his free time benefiting a cause near to her heart.

The Quigleys met in 1991 during the National MS Society’s Bike MS.

Susan, whose mother, Adele Silverman, died in 1994 of the debilitating disease at age 60, had been involved with the organization for years. Mark said he just wanted to bike the streets of Manhattan without any traffic, but after that day, the MS Society’s mission became a lifelong passion for the Garden City High School history teacher.

Today, the family, including children Andrew, 23, Emily, 21, and Matthew, 18, has participated in bike rides to benefit the National MS Society every year since its first. Susan, a certified financial planner, doesn’t have an exact number but estimates that she has raised six figures for the cause in her lifetime.

In that time, research has led to breakthroughs like the Beta seron shots that keep her symptom-free, a treatment never available to her mother.

They’ll continue to do the rides “as long as we can,” Mark said.

DOWN THIS ROUTE BEFORE

Susan was separated from her first husband when she and Mark crossed paths. And she admitted that meeting Mark wasn’t her first time feeling a spark on an MS bike tour. She recalled that a few months prior, she got to chatting with a handsome man at the Wheel and Rock to Woodstock event in upstate New York. But when it came to personality, she said he was more Gaston from “Beauty and the Beast” than Prince Charming.

“He looked like this Greek Adonis type,” she said. “Dark hair, very chiseled. But he was arrogant.”

As she struggled to climb a hill, he circled her a few times, he said “to keep her company.”

“It just felt like he was showing off,” she said.

As far as her dating life, Susan was back at the starting line.

HOW THEY MET

Mark and Susan can thank a dip at the entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel for their love story.

During the tour, a few riders hit a drainage indent at the tunnel’s start and went flying. Organizers stopped the race for about an hour to fix the problem and make sure nobody else got hurt.

The couple had been riding together and chatting for most of the race, but Mark had a girlfriend waiting for him back at his apartment. Their tone stayed friendly until the day wore on and the temperature started to rise. As they waited for the race to resume, off came Susan’s baggy sweatshirt.

“Then she takes off her glasses and she had these blue eyes,” Mark said.

“All of a sudden he’s like, ‘Hey, wait a minute. She’s cute,’ ” Susan said.

He asked for her number and broke up with the other woman two days later.

From the beginning, the two just clicked. Conversation flowed naturally and they never had to explain a joke to one another. They were the missing halves they didn’t know they were looking for.

A year and 10 days after they met, they got married.

NOT YOUR EVERYDAY WEDDING

Technically, the Quigleys had two weddings held on back-to-back days on Halloween weekend 1992.

To please their families, they held a small, traditional wedding in Brooklyn Heights at a nondenominational church on Saturday, Oct. 30. The event blended Susan’s Jewish heritage and Mark’s Catholic background.

Mark stomped a glass with his left foot. A peace sign hung above the altar and together they lit a unity candle.

But it was the following day, on Halloween, when things got a little wacky. It was shortly after “The Addams Family” reboot film was released, and the spooky family served as inspiration for the big day.

With Susan in a long black dress as the character Morticia, and Mark in a fake pencil mustache as Morticia’s husband, Gomez, the couple hosted a costume-party wedding.

Susan’s late brother, Kevin, acted as the “Thing” bearer, carrying a disembodied hand wearing a costume jewelry ring. Her late father, Hank Silverman, was supposed to be Uncle Fester, but he must have mixed up his macabre ’60s sitcoms, because he instead came as Grandpa Munster. Other guests showed up in costume, and partygoers did the Time Warp on the dance floor. The couple danced to “Unforgettable” at the stroke of midnight.

But why the Addams Family?

“The Addams Family is so romantic,” said Susan. Gomez kisses Morticia up the arm when she speaks French, she noted. Plus, she said, they’re so well-dressed.

LIVING WITH UNCERTAINTY

When Susan speaks of her childhood, she remembers happy times with her parents and two older brothers, and family camping trips. But she also recalls taking care of a mother who spent three decades in a wheelchair. Her brother Mark lives with the advanced symptoms of MS, as well.

Weakness in one of Susan’s legs sounded the alarm several years ago. After an MRI in 2008, she was diagnosed at age 43 with relapsing-remitting MS, meaning symptoms can worsen or abate over time.

Every other day, Susan injects herself with a dose of Betaseron. She remains symptom-free; still, she could wake up one day blind or paralyzed or with cognitive impairments.

“The uncertainty of it is harder to deal with than anything else,” she said.

Susan said she worried that her husband would leave if the worst happened. But Mark, who remembers helping Susan take care of her mother before she died, told her he is prepared to be her lifelong caregiver.

“He said, ‘I knew this when I married you, so this is nothing new,’ ” she said.

LIZ MARCHISELLA AND DAVID CATALETTO

So close, yet so far. That used to describe the space between Liz and David, both teachers, who lived less than two miles apart and have four-legged children that they walked in the Linda Gronlund Memorial Nature Preserve at Barcelona Neck. That wooded peninsula in Peconic Bay near the Sag Harbor-East Hampton border is where their story begins:

WHO’S THAT GIRL?

Liz had been walking her dog, Storm, along the trails every day since she got the now 3-year-old pooch at 11 weeks old. In the same park, David would hike with 3-year-old Bear, a collie mix, and would look forward to spotting the pretty girl with the big dog.

“I have a Neapolitan mastiff and she’s 175 pounds, so she’s kind of memorable,” Liz said.

She and David would nod and say hello to one another, but they only knew the dogs’ names — not each other’s.

One day in early 2017, Storm, living up to her name, came playfully charging at David and Bear. Liz came over, apologizing profusely, and she and David got to chatting.

It was a weekday afternoon and an odd time for them to be at the park. They realized they were both out because of a snow day. David is an elementary school teacher at John M. Marshall Elementary School in East Hampton, and Liz teaches art at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor. Coincidentally, they both attended their respective schools when they were students.

“He was like, ‘You’re a teacher? I’m a teacher.’ With that sentence we just clicked,” she said.

They didn’t exchange numbers or last names, but their impromptu meeting had them both walking on air.

“I went out to dinner with my sister and she was like, ‘There’s a sparkle in your eye.’ I was like, ‘I think I’m going to marry this guy,’ ” she recalled saying.

THEN DAVID SAW HER

PHOTO IN NEWSDAY . . .

After their snowy meetup, David was on the lookout for the “mystery woman in the woods,” but he didn’t see her for a few weeks. By chance, his mother, Pam Cataletto, showed him a clipping of a Newsday “Who’s Cooking” article featuring Liz and her recipe for banana bread.

Liz wore a ring on her left ring finger, so David had always assumed she was taken. But the first line in the story stated that she lived with her cousin and very large dog, with no mention of a husband.

Now he knew she wasn’t married. And finally, he had a last name.

David friended Liz on Facebook and asked her out for a burger and a beer at Sag Harbor’s Bay Burger. She immediately replied and accepted. Her sister chastised her for responding so quickly, but it didn’t seem to matter. They met up and discovered they had mutual interests and friends.

“It was just so normal and wonderful and kind of perfect,” David said.

On their second date, David cooked a meal for her in his home. Liz brought the banana bread.

He still has a piece in his freezer.

“It’s just been blissful ever since,” Liz said.

THEIR TIME TOGETHER

On their second date, David brought her a copy of The Southampton Press Trail Guide to the South Park, marking their favorite routes in the Barcelona Neck preserve. It was a fitting preview to how the couple would spend the next eight months.

As nature lovers, David and Liz have been hiking, sailing, kayaking and surfing on the East End ever since. Over the summer, they embarked on a two-week sailing trip to Nantucket aboard David’s 32-foot Pearson sailboat.

The couple spend very little time in front of the television, although they admitted to watching season seven of the HBO series “Game of Thrones” this past summer. Sometimes they create art projects together, and they were tubing along Esopus Creek in the Catskills during the August solar eclipse.

“We say our life is like ‘The Truman Show’ because everything seems like it’s staged,” Liz said.

They were engaged eight months after their initial conversation.

Liz didn’t know that David was planning on popping the question so soon. And she certainly had no idea that he had had a ring made. Using heirloom diamonds from both his mother and father’s side, David had crafted a 13-stone, 2.8-carat stunner set in white gold. He asked Liz’s father, Carmine Marchisella, for his daughter’s hand.

Now he just needed the perfect time to ask. He planned to do it in the snow to re-create the magic of their first extended encounter. Snow was in the forecast for the morning of Saturday, Dec. 9, but the snowfall didn’t exactly set the stage for romance.

“It was like a rainy, slushy snow, so I was like, ‘Should I do it?’ ” he said. Then the snow turned, leaving a fine powder on the ground. The couple went for a walk.

Near the tree where they had their first real conversation last winter, David got down on one knee. Liz didn’t have to think about her answer.

“We just hugged for, like, a half-hour,” he said. “They say when you know, you know, and I agree.”

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

The couple are South Fork natives, and that’s where they want to stay. The East End has much to offer outdoorsy types, such as surfing, sailing and hiking, not to mention community and family.

“It makes sense for us to stay because this is the life we wanted,” Liz said. “We just fit here.”

The wedding will likely be on the East End in summer or fall 2018. A ceremony aboard David’s sailboat sounds appealing, and the couple say they want their families to be involved.

“I have 21 first cousins in Sag Harbor, so it would be easiest to stay here,” Liz said.

TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU MET

Access the online Love Story form at newsday.com/lilovestory — or send an anecdote along with your phone number and a photo to: Love Story, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747-4250; or email dunleavy@newsday.com, or call Virginia Dunleavy at 631-843-2923.

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