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Working together at diner helped them cook up a love connection

Karen and Kyriacos "Kenny" Parpounas of West Islip

Karen and Kyriacos "Kenny" Parpounas of West Islip celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in November 2017 with a cruise. Credit: Newsday / Parpounas family

Karen Parpounas of West Islip recalls when her friendship with future husband Kyriacos (“Kenny”) turned to love.

In the summer of 1985, I became a waitress at the Nautilus Diner in Massapequa. I was 21. I developed friendships with many of my co-workers. We would frequently go out after work as a group. One of our members, a cook, was very quiet. He was so quiet that at first I didn’t think he spoke English.

His name was Kyriacos, but our co-workers nicknamed him Kenny. Another waitress told me he was here from Cyprus on a student visa and was attending Hofstra University in Hempstead. She said he was a really nice guy.

While working a night shift with Kenny, I asked him how long he had been in the United States. He replied, “10 months,” with the thickest accent I have ever heard. He was 22. We both lived in Lindenhurst. Eventually, between working together and socializing with our co-workers, we became good friends.

More than a year went by when another co-worker told me Kenny was interested in dating me. I felt that if we dated and it did not work out, it would ruin our friendship. I then began to notice that this co-worker always found a way to leave me alone with Kenny when we went to a club. I told her to stop pushing us together. However, the next time we were out at Crawdaddy’s, Kenny approached me and asked if I’d like to go on a date. I said, “Yes,” and that night we shared our first kiss.

We went to El Torito in Massapequa for dinner on our first date. By our second date, I knew this was the man I wanted to marry.

Actually, we got married three times! First on Nov. 30, 1987, by the Town of Babylon Justice of Peace, with my mom and my uncle as witnesses. In December 1987 we traveled to Cyprus with my mother to meet Kenny’s family and had a church wedding with more than 300 people in attendance. And, finally, we renewed our vows in February 1988 with a reception at the Narragansett Inn in Lindenhurst so that the rest of my family could celebrate with us.

In 1990 we moved to West Islip. We have been incredibly blessed with three amazing children. We also gained another son on Oct. 30, 2016, when our daughter got married.

I am a special-education teacher for the Lindenhurst School District. Kenny is a manager for the Premier Diner in Commack. We enjoy going out to dinner, traveling and going on cruises. We have visited Cyprus many times in the past 30 years. Kenny’s family came here for the first time to attend our daughter’s wedding.

We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary on a Caribbean cruise with our youngest son. Kenny and I also had an overnight stay in Manhattan. Through the years, we’ve had some bumps in the road when life threw us curveballs, but we managed to come through them stronger and closer than ever. I am a 7-year cancer survivor and grateful for every single day with my husband and children. The words that come to mind to describe our life together are blessed, thankful and lucky. I am excited to see where the next 30 years will take us.

— With Virginia Dunleavy

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