Phyllis Caggiano of East Meadow recalls how she met her future husband, Alfonso.
I was 17 and had a job at a clothing factory in Manhattan in 1951, when I noticed a handsome man working across the street. I asked one of his co-workers about him. He was a jewelry designer and his name was Alfonso “Al” Caggiano. He was 26 and lived in Manhattan. I said, “Find out if he might be interested in meeting me.”
A few weeks later, I was very surprised to find Al waiting for me outside my building. He introduced himself, and I told him my name was Phyllis Riccardi. He then invited me to join him for lunch.
Al was very nice, and afterward he asked me for a date. I lived in Brooklyn, but we arranged to meet in Manhattan.
As I was getting ready for our date, my ex-boyfriend stopped by to see how my mother and I were doing. We had lost my father the previous year. I felt I couldn’t leave and wound up standing Al up on our very first date!
When I saw him at work the next day, although he was furious at being stood up, he wanted to take me on a proper date and insisted he meet my mother. He picked me up at my house and met my Mom. She liked him very much.
Al took me to a waterfront restaurant called Happy’s in Brooklyn. This was the first time I was ever alone in a car with a man. When he turned off the parkway onto a somewhat desolate road I became very worried until I saw the restaurant’s neon sign. We had a lovely meal and then went on a boat ride.
Less than a year later, on June 7, 1952, we were married at Saints Simon and Jude Church in Gravesend, Brooklyn. We lived in Flushing, Queens, and then Bellmore before moving to East Meadow in 1961.
I owned Boos Florist in Hicksville, and Al was general manager of the jewelry repair shop at the LI Diamond & Jewelry Exchange in Garden City. After he retired in 1986 he set up a jewelry repair area at my shop until I retired in 1996. My customers loved him.
Al had served in the Army during World War II from 1943 to 1946. He survived three beach landings in Italy and France with the Infantry’s 36th Division Heavy Weapons, Company M. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroism in combat as a machine-gunner.
We are active members of the Order of the Sons of Italy Donatello Lodge as well as the Salisbury East Meadow Senior Center and the St. Anthony’s Society in Westbury. I am president of the latter two groups.
Al has always been by my side, helping and encouraging me in anything I ever wanted to achieve, no matter how hard or impossible it might seem. We support each other and are still always together, whether it be doing volunteer work or spending time with our family and friends.
Last month we celebrated our 65th wedding anniversary with our four children, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren at a party at the Empress Diner in East Meadow. Despite the many forces that could have kept us apart in the beginning, fate brought us together in the end. We have been inseparable ever since.
— With Virginia Dunleavy