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Love Story: She got his attention in the parking lot

Mary Lou and Anthony Cancellieri, seen in Florida

Mary Lou and Anthony Cancellieri, seen in Florida in February 2020, will celebrate their 50th anniversary with a week in the Hamptons with their immediate family. Credit: Cancellieri family

Tony Cancellieri talks about meeting his wife, Mary Lou.

Mary Lou Fiore and I met in the Rockaways in April 1969. Friends and I were in my car going to McNulty’s, an Irish bar. While parking, I came close to the car in front of me, which was Mary Lou’s. She and her cousin JoAnn and a friend were heading to Fitzgerald’s Bar, which was nearby.

When we all exited our cars, Mary Lou said to me, “How do you expect me to get my car out?”

Like a cocky yet flirtatious young guy, I said, “Well, you’ll have to come find me in McNulty’s.” We went our separate ways. After a while, I went to Fitzgerald’s looking for that cute girl from the parking lot. I found her, and we ended up dancing the night away.

Mary Lou lived in Richmond Hill and I lived in Woodhaven, both in Queens. I asked for her phone number, and a few weeks later we went to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden. Shortly afterward, we started dating steadily, and I was her senior prom date at Richmond Hill High School. I soon realized the more time I spent with Mary Lou, the more I knew she was someone special.

She graduated that June and went on a trip to Canada with her mom, a girlfriend and her girlfriend’s mother. I really missed Mary Lou while she was away. Mary Lou says, though, that because I was at Woodstock that weekend, I likely didn’t miss her that much. Mary Lou started attending St. John’s University that September. I was working for the New York City Police Department as a trainee, first in Manhattan then in Flushing.

By the end of 1969, I knew Mary Lou was the one. I bought an engagement ring and asked her to marry me. We tied the knot Aug. 16, 1970, at Holy Child Jesus R.C. Church in Richmond Hill and had a wonderful reception at Dante’s in Jackson Heights. After returning from our honeymoon at the Banana Beach Hotel in Bermuda, we rented an apartment in Mary Lou's mother’s house.

We moved to our own home in Valley Stream in 1972. Our three children, Lisa, Jennifer and Robert, were born while we lived there. In 1986, we moved to Rockville Centre. Mary Lou was an elementary school teacher at St. Mary School in East Islip, then a reading specialist at Powells Lane Elementary School in Westbury. She retired in 2018. I retired from the NYPD as a lieutenant in 1987 and held several government positions after that. I retired in 2017 from Park Strategies, a business consulting firm, where I was a vice president.

Our wonderful children and their spouses, Patrick, Stephanie and Carlos, have blessed us with eight beautiful grandchildren.

In 2016, Mary Lou and I formed a not-for-profit charity called RVC Blue Speaks, which supports individuals on the autism spectrum. We enjoy traveling and spending time with our children, our grandchildren and a wonderful circle of friends. I serve as vice chairman of the Mount Sinai South Nassau, a hospital in Oceanside, and Mary Lou volunteers as a literacy advocate. 

Mary Lou is a terrific wife, mother and grandmother. She is the most caring person I know. I feel like I won the lottery when I married her.

Before the pandemic, we had planned a 50th anniversary celebration for August with more than 100 people at the Rockville Links Club, but instead we’ll be enjoying a wonderful week in the Hamptons with our immediate family.

— With Ann Donahue-Smukler

TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU MET. Access the online form at newsday.com/lilovestory — or send an anecdote along with your phone number and a photo to ann.smukler@newsday.com, or call Ann Donahue-Smukler at 631-843-2520. Publication is not guaranteed. Photos cannot be returned and may be used in other publications affiliated with Newsday.

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