Louise Ponella talks about meeting her husband, Mike.
I formally met Mike at Coney Island in 1945. I was 15, and he was 17. I knew Mike from our East New York neighborhood, but we hadn't spoken before that summer day. I was sitting on a beach blanket with my sisters, and Mike, who was at the beach with his friends, walked over to talk to me. He made me laugh with jokes and humorous stories, and he had a beautiful singing voice. I remember, in particular, he sang, "Candy," made famous by Johnny Mercer, Jo Stafford and The Pied Pipers.
After that day, he would come to my house to talk to me. One day, my mother’s friend was taking me to the movies and asked if I would like to invite Mike. I said, "Oh yes!" (She knew I liked him, but she also wanted to get an extra promotional dish they were giving out at Lowe's Pitkin Theatre.) He accepted the invitation and held my hand for the first time during the show, "Objective, Burma!" with Errol Flynn.
We started dating, going to the movies, the pizzeria and Jahn's Ice Cream Parlor near Myrtle Avenue. After we dated for about three years, Mike went to his cousin’s house in Bay Ridge for a weekend and when he heard the song "The More I See You," he realized he wanted to return to me because he knew he loved me.
He came to see me when he got home, saying, "let’s go for a walk!" At the end of the walk, he asked me if he could kiss me — and I accepted. That was our first kiss, and I told him, "You're the guy, I'm going to marry." We got engaged on Oct. 14, 1949, and married Oct. 28, 1950, at St. Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Our reception was at Al Torre Association Hall in Brooklyn. I was the first one in my family to have a catered wedding with a hot meal. We honeymooned at the St. James Hotel in Manhattan.
Mike got drafted into the Army, spending most of his time in Stuttgart, Germany; I was able to join him 10 months later. I returned to our family home in Ozone Park in spring 1954, a return captured by news photographers, with my picture appearing in New York City papers; Mike returned in August. A year later, our first child, Michael, was born. We had two more children, Ronald and Debra.
Mike then bought and ran Mike's Pizza in Howard Beach for 10 years, and I worked alongside him. After that, Mike was an agent for Prudential Insurance in Valley Stream for 12 years before retiring. Upon retirement we moved to Mount Sinai in 1996, and then moved to Port Jefferson Station in 2005 and live at Woodcrest Estates. Mike is still active, bowling at the Port Jeff Bowl. We both are involved in local senior centers; Mike was president of the Mount Sinai Senior Center for more than two years.
We are fortunate to spend time with our children and their spouses, Josie, Lyn and Mike, our grandchildren, Jason, Justin, Jesse, Marissa, Michael and Laina, and our great-grandchildren, Emily, Liana and Michael.
Mike still has a great singing voice, recording the "Gift of Song" CD around his 72nd birthday as a gift to family and friends; one of our hobbies is playing Scrabble.
We are so thankful and blessed that we still have each other after all these years. We will be celebrating our 70th wedding anniversary with our children and extended family, though the details aren't set yet because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
— With Lynn Petry
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