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Love Story: Leone and Mel Turner, Rego Park

Mel and Leone Turner of Rego Park, Queens,

Mel and Leone Turner of Rego Park, Queens, recently celebrated their 50th anniversary with a cruise to the Caribbean. Photo Credit: Princess Cruises

Leone Turner of Rego Park, Queens, recalls the bit of confusion that almost prevented a first date with future husband, Mel.


One night in December 1961, during a snowstorm, I persuaded two friends to take a bus from our Gun Hill Road neighborhood in the Bronx to the roller rink at Jerome Avenue and Fordham Road, also in the Bronx. I had just broken up with my boyfriend and was looking for a date for New Year's Eve.

As I walked into the rink, a good-looking guy caught my eye. Not long after I started skating the "couples only" sign came on and the handsome guy came over and asked me to skate. His name was Mel. We were both 18 and he also lived in the Bronx, but there was a height difference -- Mel is 6-foot-2 and I'm 5 feet tall. He was very funny and we skated together the rest of the night. Then he asked me out on a date.

I'm Jewish but I thought Mel was Italian. When I told him I only dated Jewish guys, he said he was Jewish. I didn't believe him until he asked his sister, who was also at the rink, to confirm they were indeed Jewish. I agreed to the date.

By the time we left the rink the snow was very deep. Mel had taken his parents' car but had to leave it behind. He took a bus to his home at 170th Street and Sheridan Avenue. Fortunately for me, our bus was also still running.

Our first date was to a New Year's Eve party in my neighborhood. Mel was a dream come true. We stayed until 6 a.m. while he entertained everyone. Being around Mel is like being at a comedy club. He is rarely serious and always has everyone laughing. On a cruise last year the other passengers wanted to know whether Mel was the professional comedian booked for the trip.

We continued dating, usually going to see a movie at the Loew's Paradise Theater on the Grand Concourse, but we never returned to the skating rink.

Mel asked me to marry him in 1963. On Nov. 15, 1964, we wed at the Concourse Plaza in the Bronx. At the end of the Jewish wedding ceremony, the groom traditionally smashes a glass with his foot. Mel, who wears a size 12 shoe, missed the glass altogether. This happened again when we renewed our vows for our 35th anniversary in Las Vegas. His foot slipped off the glass and it went flying!

In 1972 Mel and I moved to Rego Park. We have two children and one granddaughter. Mel retired from Merrill Lynch in 2005 as an assistant vice president and a systems assurance analyst. When the children were older, I worked part-time for a real estate agency on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan until 1976.

Mel and I recently celebrated our 50th anniversary with a cruise to the Caribbean. We owe all of this to a snowy night at the roller skating rink, definitely a night to remember.


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