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Love Story: Getting her alone was the start of togetherness

Pat and Cathy Magdalen of Kings Park in

Pat and Cathy Magdalen of Kings Park in June 2018 at a wedding in Maine. Credit: Artifact Images

Pat Magdalen of Kings Park talks about meeting his wife, Cathy (Neilson).

Cathy and I met in 1959 while we were with a group of friends at Benny's, a luncheonette in Meiers Corners, Staten Island. We both lived in the area. I was 19. Cathy was 16. She was very shy, and being dark Irish (a term used to describe people of Irish descent with dark hair), very beautiful. I wanted to ask her out but couldn’t get her alone.

One night a few weeks later, I offered to drive everyone home, dropping off Cathy last. When we were finally alone, I told Cathy I liked her and hoped we could start dating. She agreed, and we became a couple.

We would often go bowling with friends or to the drive-in theater in my customized 1951 Ford coupe. We liked to go to Al Deppe’s Restaurant, which to us was the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs of Staten Island.

After dating for two years, we married on May 20, 1961, at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Richmond Town, Staten Island, with Father Russel officiating. The reception was at the Meurot Club in St. George. It was particularly special because my father, Pat Davis, a professional trumpet player, and his eight-piece band, The Minute Men, played at our reception.

Early in our marriage, I was a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, commuting from Staten Island. After the birth of our first daughter, Karyn, in 1962, we moved to Kings Park, where eventually our daughters Jayne and Beth and our son, Patrick, rounded out our family. I worked as a precast salesman at Cliff Carlson & Sons Precast in Kings Park. After 15 years, I did the same work at Andrew Carlson & Sons for another 15 years. I also co-owned Kings Park Family Beverage with my nephew Tom Ciliotta. After selling the business in 2003, I retired. Cathy worked in food service for 20 years at Kings Park Psychiatric Center, retiring in 1999.

Cathy is an amazing partner. She always wanted to be a wife and mother, and raising our three daughters and son was the happiest time in her life. She'd love to relive those days if she could. She is a wonderful cook and learned all the recipes my Italian mother and great-grandmother made for me. Cathy’s meatballs are just as famous in our family as those I grew up eating.

Cathy and I rarely fought. However, decorating the Christmas tree, specifically stringing lights, brought out the worst in us. Though Cathy would suggest it, for some reason I would never anchor the tree, which constantly fell over. As the kids grew older, they eventually took over the job while Cathy and I went to Aunt Madeline and Uncle Bob's annual Christmas brunch with good friends Aunt Dolly and Uncle Paul. We were always happy to return to a perfectly decorated tree, laughing at how this solution saved our marriage.

It’s true what they say: Don't sweat the small stuff. Materials things come and go. We were fortunate to have the love and support of many good friends and family members who are no longer with us. As you age, you realize how fast time goes. Spending time with our children, their spouses, our 12 grandchildren and our 1-year-old great-granddaughter is a blessing. For the past year, those visits have been limited to Zoom sessions. As it turned out, we saw our infant great-granddaughter only once before "quarantining" for a year.

We look forward to celebrating our 60th anniversary during a weekend vacation with the whole family once the weather gets warmer.

— With Ann Donahue-Smukler

TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU MET. Access the online form at — or send an anecdote along with your phone number and a photo to, 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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