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Love Story: At first she didn't want to meet, then they clicked at Bronx lounge

Joe and Celeste Cirigliano of East Williston met

Joe and Celeste Cirigliano of East Williston met in 1969 and were married a year later on April 5, 1970. Credit: Cirigliano family

Celeste Cirigliano of Williston Park talks about meeting her husband, Joe.

In the summer of 1969, I was Celeste Colelli living with my mother in the Bronx. My two best friends wanted me to meet Joe, a mutual friend of their boyfriends. Not a fan of blind dates, I said no.

One night friends and I were at the Shalimar, a lounge in the Bronx. My destiny unfolded when their boyfriends walked in ahead of a handsome young man. I said, “That must be Joe!” It was, and we enjoyed the evening talking and dancing.

We started dating, and after a month Joe asked me to marry him. I declined because I was afraid of a failed marriage like my parents'. He said, “Well then, I’ll never see you again.” I didn’t want that, so I said yes. But, in my mind, I was planning to end it before the wedding. He moved the wedding date closer three times, and before I knew it, we were married April 5, 1970. The ceremony was at a church in the Bronx and the reception at Gun Hill Manor. We moved to Holbrook in 1973. By 1974 our family had grown to include our son, Joseph Jr., and daughter, Lisa.‬‬

Years later I discovered Joe had served in Vietnam, was wounded, received a Purple Heart and suffered from PTSD. I had my own deep wounds from my parents’ divorce that I never revealed. These backgrounds brought problems to our marriage. We loved each other, but our damaged lives got in the way.

Life taught me that communication and God in the center of our marriage were the keys to success. I turned my life over to Him along with my hopes and broken dreams. This changed our lives forever and made me a better wife, mother, daughter, friend and family member. The healing began just like the Bible states, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”

When Joe retired from the New York City Sanitation Department, we moved to Florida, where I worked as a cosmetologist before becoming a registered nurse in 1992. Joe opened a medical company that he ran for three years.

I became a traveling RN in 2000 when I learned our daughter was expecting our first grandchild and I wanted to be a part of it. I got a 13-week contract at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. Joe stayed in Florida to manage his trucking business. During time off, we would meet in Aruba, Palm Beach, Florida, and other romantic island getaways.

In 2004, I experienced the true meaning of “to love and to cherish" when Joe was diagnosed with cancer from Agent Orange. He is now a survivor. He was honored and finally welcomed home as Veteran of the Game at Yankee Stadium in 2019. It was an amazing night!

In 2008 I became a board-certified life coach, helping people achieve their personal goals. We have six grandchildren who are our family jewels, each one a unique gem with the fingerprints of God all over them.

We moved to Williston Park in 2007 and have been there since. Our lives experienced many hills and valleys, but they’ve made us stronger. We made a commitment that love is not a feeling, but instead a decision. Using our decision to overrule all problems in life has given us many rewards.

We were planning to celebrate our 50th anniversary with family and friends, but the coronavirus has changed our plans for the time being. So once again, it was just the two of us!

— With Ann Donahue-Smukler

TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU MET. Access the online form at newsday.com/lilovestory — or send an anecdote along with your phone number and a photo to ann.smukler@newsday.com, or call Ann Donahue-Smukler at 631-843- 2520. Publication is not guaranteed. Photos cannot be returned and may be used in other publications affiliated with Newsday.

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