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Love Story: She came to buy gum and, by gum, she likes me

Joseph and Carmela Pipia of East Rockaway celebrated

Joseph and Carmela Pipia of East Rockaway celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in July, 2016. Credit: Pipia family

Joseph and Carmela Pipia of East Rockaway met as teenagers. Joseph recalls their first date.

We first became aware of each other in 1980 at Leroy Pharmacy in Bayside, Queens, when we were both 16 years old. I was working there as a stock boy when Mr. Zaino, the owner of Gino’s pizzeria next door, walked through the pharmacy with his daughter Carmela. They had come from the parking lot on their way to the pizzeria.

One day while I was at Gino’s on my lunch break, the counterman told me that Carmela liked me. I was taken by surprise that this beautiful girl would be interested in me! I asked him questions about her and learned she lived in Lynbrook.. I grew up in Bayside and had never heard of Lynbrook.

Carmela worked at the pizzeria a few days a week and occasionally stopped in at the pharmacy to buy gum. We would just smile or say hi. This went on for two years. I couldn’t ask her on a date because she lived too far away.

Then I turned 17 and got my license. After getting reassurances from the man working at Gino’s that Carmela wasn’t seeing anyone and was still interested in me, I made a point to strike up a conversation whenever I saw her and finally got the courage to ask her to see a movie with me. She agreed, but said I had to get her father’s permission. So I asked Mr. Zaino and his face turned red. He wasn’t happy. He insisted that I come by the house early on the night of the date to meet Carmela’s mother, grandmother and sisters. I did and had my first taste of espresso coffee, which kept me wired all night. We had a great date, and when we left the movie theater, I noticed her father and sisters across the street getting ice cream.

Carmela and I became inseparable. I knew after two weeks I would marry her. She thought I was crazy when I told her, but I later found out she had the same thoughts.

In 1985, Carmela received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Hofstra University in Hempstead. I graduated in 1986 from St. John’s University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. Two weeks later, on July 5, 1986, we were married at St. Raymond’s Church in East Rockaway. Our three-week honeymoon was spent in California and Hawaii.

In 1990, we bought a house in East Rockaway, where we raised our two daughters. This month, we celebrated our 30th anniversary with a family dinner and are planning a trip to Italy.

Carmela, a certified public accountant, is a principal at the accounting firm Schaeffer and Sam PC in Uniondale. I owned a truck and car rental business and now work with United Rentals in Bohemia as Nassau County territory manager.

Our marriage is as perfect as it could be. I have made my mistakes along the way; I always said Carmela is too good for me, an angel on earth. Many years into our marriage, Carmela gave me the greatest compliment by saying if it wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t be where she is today. We motivate each other.

If I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing — except listen to my Carmela more.

— With Virginia Dunleavy


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