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Love Story: His chivalry won her over at family party

John and Gilda MacDonald of Stony Brook celebrated

John and Gilda MacDonald of Stony Brook celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary this year. Credit: MacDonald Family

Gilda MacDonald of Stony Brook recalls the act of chivalry that sparked a romance with her future husband.

John and I have known each other since we were kids (my last name was Collins). We were related through marriage (my aunt and John’s uncle are married to each other). I would see him periodically when he and his family, who lived in Brentwood, would visit relatives near our home in Wantagh.

In 1982, John’s grandparents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. The party was at the Hibernian Hall in East Islip. My mother was invited but didn’t want to drive alone, so she asked me to join her. When I walked into the party, my Uncle Al, a hilarious character, said he wanted to introduce me to his nephew John. I politely told him, “That’s OK, I remember John and don’t need to see him again.” He was persistent and finally said, “John happens to be tall.” So, because I was 5-foot-10 and wanted to appease this dear man, I agreed to meet John, all 6-foot-5 of him.

Well … John was simply an adorable 19-year-old wearing the longest suit jacket I had ever seen. It was a chilly in the air-conditioned hall and he didn’t hesitate to take off his jacket and drape it over my shoulders. Nothing like chivalry. I was hooked.

After we went on only about 10 dates, John mumbled something about getting married. I knew he was the one for me, and I said yes. We were married Sept. 17, 1983, at St. Frances De Chantal in Wantagh. Our reception was at Katie Daly’s Pub in Massapequa where we hired a great Irish band name Dermy Mac. After honeymooning at a resort in Jamaica, we moved into an apartment in Huntington Station.

Two years later, we bought a condo in Holbrook. We were blessed with our first son, Michael, in 1994 and our second son, Robert, in 1997. I work full time as a high school social worker and am a licensed clinical social worker in private practice. John opened his own business, Direct Transmission Parts, in Holtsville in 1988. We moved to Stony Brook in 1994 and have lived there since. Our sons, now 22 and 25, are college graduates.

John is always doing thoughtful things for me. In January he surprised me with tickets to Willie Nelson’s 85th birthday concert in Nashville. When I broke my hand in a bike accident, doctors put a pin in my wrist. I was worried I’d never be able to play my beloved guitar again. John knew how badly I wanted to get back strumming, so he bought me guitar lessons that allowed me to start playing again. These lessons started a mini career for me. I will be performing for the third time at an open-mic night at Hartlin Inn in Sound Beach.

We have been serious foodies since our dating days. To celebrate the anniversary of our meeting as adults, we had dinner at a swanky seafood restaurant in Islip and almost broke the bank. Today we are fortunate to be able to enjoy meals at places like Da Noi Italian Restaurant in Islip without worry. We celebrated our 36th anniversary there. John arranged to have my favorite dish, osso buco, put on the menu.

Because our sons are out of the house — we’re now empty nesters — John and I love finding local happy hours for dinner. We often say to one another, “I’m glad we still like each other.”

— 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 Love Story, Newsday, 6 Corporate Center Dr., Melville, NY 11747; or email, 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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