For John and Jennifer Lio of Wantagh, falling in love was a family affair. Jennifer explains.
In 1959, my husband John’s grandparents, the Lios, sold their house in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, to my grandparents, the Nigidos. They became close friends, as did their children, even after the Lios moved to another home nearby. My father was a groomsman at John’s parents’ wedding.
Over the years, as the children grew up, married and moved away, our families drifted apart. My parents settled in Smithtown and John’s parents moved to Massapequa Park.
Then, in 2004, John’s aunt and her husband drove through the old neighborhood. They visited my grandmother, who still lived in the same house. She was now our only surviving grandparent. They agreed to have a Lio and Nigido “family” reunion.
On March 14, 2004, we gathered at John’s aunt’s house on Staten Island. I remember getting very excited when John walked into the room and we were introduced. I was 25; John was 27 and lived in Bayside, Queens.
At that time, I was living with my grandmother in Bensonhurst while working at the Wilhelmina Modeling Agency in Manhattan as assistant to the booking agent. This made for an easier commute for me. I had lived with her before while I was attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
There was a pool table at the house, and at one point during the reunion I asked John if he’d like to play a game with me. He said he wasn’t interested. I thought he wasn’t interested in me and was surprised when he called me for a date. He later confessed that he was just trying to play it cool when we met. Our first date was on March 27, at Il Cortile Ristorante in Little Italy. We very quickly became a couple.
On Aug. 20, 2005, my parents’ 28th anniversary, John surprised me with a marriage proposal at my grandmother’s house, the property that originally brought our two families together. He filled the living room with roses and candles. Afterward, we went downstairs to the basement, where our parents and siblings were waiting for us. He knew I would want to share the news immediately with them.
We were married on July 14, 2007, at St. Phillip and St. James Roman Catholic Church in St. James. Our reception was at Chateau La Mer in Lindenhurst. We spent our honeymoon traveling through Italy and Germany.
John and I lived in Manhattan for a short time before moving to my grandmother’s house in Bensonhurst in 2008. We rented the upper level of the house until 2010, when we bought our home in Wantagh.
John is vice president of marketing for DriTac Flooring Products. I decided to change careers and received my master’s degree in education from Touro College in Manhattan in 2009. I worked as a special educator from 2009 to 2017 with the New York City Department of Education. I recently accepted a teaching position with the Valley Stream School District 13.
We celebrated our 10th anniversary this year in Atlantic City. John has strong family values. He would do anything for his family and friends. He is the father of our three girls, ages 5, 3 and 5 months. We often take them to Bensonhurst to see their great-grandmother. We still enjoy hearing her stories about our families.
With Virginia Dunleavy