Chris Tyson talks about how his relationship with his wife, Diana, took flight.
Our love story started in 1983 at Kennedy Airport, where we both worked for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Diana was 22, and her last name was Macaluso then. She lived with her family in Woodhaven, Queens, and worked in the Passenger Service Department. I worked in the Special Services Department. There were two requirements to work in those departments: You had to type at least 30 words per minute, and you had to be fluent in a second language.
Diana, whose given name is Damiana, was born in San Giovanni, a very small village in Sicily. When Diana was 6½ years old, her family immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Woodhaven. She is fluent in Italian.
I grew up in Northport and spoke only English. But I had a skill set KLM wanted. I had been a professional soccer player in the 1970s and '80s, and KLM had a soccer team that played in tournaments worldwide. A former teammate got me a tryout for a game against a British KLM team, and I got the job.
After I started, I noticed Diana, a Sicilian beauty, right away. She was friendly, smart and affable to all. My position took me all over the airport while Diana worked only at the KLM terminal. It wasn’t easy finding reasons to talk to her, but after two years I asked her out.
For our first date I planned to pick her up in Woodhaven, where she lived with her parents and a younger brother, then go to a comedy club. But first, I need to tell you about an older man, named Gandolfo, who was a custodian in the first-class lounge at KLM. We would talk frequently in the locker room. I had some trouble understanding him because of his thick accent, but he was a wonderful guy and I was always happy to ‘talk’ with him.
When I picked Diana up, she invited me in to meet her parents. There, standing in the living room, was her mother and Gandolfo. I thought to myself, does this guy clean houses, too?! I soon found out I had been speaking with Diana’s father for two years and never knew it. We all had a big laugh, and our first date went great!
In September 1985 I was ready to make a commitment but wanted to get permission from her father first. He had heart problems and was in the hospital when I went to ask him. We talked for a while before I got up the nerve to ask his permission to marry his daughter. He beamed from ear to ear and asked “That's nice, that's wonderful, that's great — hey, what’s ‘permission’?” I laughed so hard and then explained what it meant. Of course, he gave me his approval.
We were married May 11, 1986, at St. Thomas the Apostle in Woodhaven and honeymooned in Hawaii. We moved into the second level of Diana’s parents’ home. We stayed there for 2½ years before moving to North Massapequa and later to a different house in that area.
I retired from KLM in 2017. Diana is the executive assistant to the president of JFKIAT, the company that operates Terminal 4 at JFK.
Our daughter, Alyssa, a speech pathologist, is the love of our lives.
Diana and I enjoy traveling and have been lucky to experience many parts of this wonderful planet. When Diana retires, we will continue to travel and see our friends and family all over the world.
— With Ann Donahue-Smukler
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