Josephine Ponella of Massapequa talks about meeting her husband, Mike.
Mike and I met at Queensborough Community College in 1977. I was Josephine Cavallaro then, and lived in Corona, Queens. Mike, an Ozone Park guy, was a cute musician — he played guitar and sang. In a talk he gave in our speech class, he mentioned Six Horse Hitch, a band he had performed with. I remembered seeing that band two years earlier — and him, in particular.
During class, I would try to catch his attention, but he thought I was a disco girl because I always dressed to go to my job afterward. One day he was wearing an Emerson, Lake and Palmer T-shirt, and I mentioned it was my favorite band. He was surprised and asked me to tell him about myself, which I did. He then said, “Why don’t you come rocking and rolling with me?” We started dating after that.
Our first date was dinner at Regents Row in Kew Gardens before meeting his nice "married friends" Larry and Barbara. He wanted me to know he had friends other than rock-and-rollers. We had a nice time.
We were both full-time students. I was a part-time saleswoman at Ohrbach’s, an apparel store in Manhattan, and Mike played original music on Long Island and at other venues, like Max's Kansas City in Manhattan, with his band Karnival.
We dated for about 2½ years. Mike never actually proposed to me. He just started talking about getting married and that I was the one.
We planned our wedding, but my mother died of breast cancer six months before our wedding date. This was very hard on my whole family. I knew how much she loved Mike and that she was happy for us. That was my consolation. Mike sang a beautiful song at our wedding that he wrote for me called "Rediscovered." Our wedding was May 4, 1980, at Burburan's Towne House in Flushing. We honeymooned at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
We lived in Ozone Park for seven years before moving to Massapequa, where we raised our son, Michael, and daughter, Laina, and have lived since. We’ve enjoyed many great family vacations at upstate Lake George and Disney World as well as during a special trip to Italy to see my family. Both kids were involved in music, sports and theater, and are musicians today.
I love my job as a legal assistant at Rivkin Radler, where I've been for 15 years. Mike worked on Wall Street in the brokerage industry for 30 years until switching careers in 2008 to become an insurance agent. He’s performed as a musician throughout his life. He is a major Beatles fan and has been a member of Beyond Fab and Strawberry Fields, both Beatles tribute bands. He now performs with 45 RPM, a Long Island tribute band. Mike is quick-witted, good-hearted and always willing to help anyone.
In addition to enjoying the Long Island music scene, I enjoy the beach, nature and being a part of my meditation group. I also raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at its yearly Light the Night event at Eisenhower Park.
We love spending time with our son and daughter-in-law, Nicole, and our daughter and son-in-law, Tony, and our extended family and friends, but especially our 15-month-old grandson, Michael. Our anniversary plans are on hold, but meanwhile Mike and I look back on our 40 years of marriage with gratitude for all we have — including our health, since we’re both cancer survivors.
— With Ann Donahue-Smukler
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