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Love Story: Dating didn’t ruin their childhood friendship

John and Kerry Dalena of Manorville have known

John and Kerry Dalena of Manorville have known each other since kindergarten. Married in May 1993, they have three children and celebrated their 25th anniversary with a trip to France and Italy. Credit: Dalena Family

Kerry Dalena of Manorville recalls growing up with her husband, John.

I remember learning the alphabet in kindergarten class alongside my future husband, John Dalena, at South Street School in Manorville. We were taught with the help of the “letter people,” 26 large balloons, each with a face and a letter. It was 1976. My name was Kerry Stefandis.

John and I lived around the block from each other in Manor Park. We were best friends. By second grade, John was just another boy in my class and one of the kids I’d ride my bike with in the neighborhood. We continued being classmates and pals from third through ninth grades at Dayton Avenue School.

In 1986, while we were in ninth grade, John and I became a couple. We went out on weekends together with our friends and would hang out at Jaymie’s Pizza in the neighborhood. We were 14 and, as most young teen romances go, I broke up with him three weeks later but we remained friends.

John asked me to go to the ninth-grade dinner dance with him at the end of that school year. It was similar to a prom. We were leaving the school district in the fall and starting our sophomore year at Westhampton Beach High School. We had a great time at the dance. I still have the corsage that John gave me and our seating tags.

During high school, we dated other people but always remained friends. I was hesitant about dating John again because I thought it would ruin our friendship.

In 1989, our senior year, John took one of my girlfriends to the prom and I went with one of his friends. It was at Felice’s in Patchogue. We all went in the same limo. The next day, a group of us went to Great Adventure amusement park in New Jersey, and John and I went on every ride together.

That June, I had a graduation party at my house and invited all my friends, including John. Several weeks later, on July 28, 1989, John asked me to go to a movie and, because I felt something for John, I took a chance that it wouldn’t affect our friendship. We didn’t know at the time that it was the beginning of a wonderful relationship.

On Dec. 13, 1991, John took me out to dinner. We went to Zorba the Greek in Hicksville. As I was eating, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him as he slipped a ring on my finger.

After knowing John for 17 years, we were married on May 2, 1993, at the Huntington Town House; we honeymooned in Hawaii. It is a great feeling marrying someone you have known and cherished all your life.

John is a construction operating engineer with Local 138 and I am assistant nurse manager of the emergency department at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Patchogue.

We love spending time with our three beautiful children. As a family, we all enjoy boating. Last month, John and I celebrated 25 years of marriage with a trip to Paris, Venice and Rome. We are inseparable. We do everything together.

— With Virginia Dunleavy

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