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Love Story: Sister's Sweet 16 party was start of romance

Betty and John Bonsignore of East Meadow plan

Betty and John Bonsignore of East Meadow plan to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary on Nov. 27 by renewing their vows at St. Raphael's Church in East Meadow. Credit: Bonsignore family

Betty Bonsignore of East Meadow shares how she met her husband, John.

I grew up in Brooklyn, where I had a wonderful childhood. My name was Betty Discher, and at my sister Ruth’s Sweet 16 party in 1948, I met a handsome guy named John Bonsignore who lived on Boerum Street in Brooklyn. I was 14, and he was 16.

John asked me to dance, and that dance was the beginning of our love story. The following week, he asked me to go with him to the movies and soon I was wearing his sweater, proudly displaying the letters of the former Franklin K. Lane High School.

We dated for two years. My parents loved John. He was a true gentleman and still is. We enjoyed going to movies and roller-skating at Empire Roller Rink in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

In 1952, John left Brooklyn to serve in the U.S. Army in the Korean War — but not before proposing to me. He asked me to marry him while we were sitting on a bench in Prospect Park. We celebrated our engagement with family and friends and music and dancing at Victory Hall on Jefferson Street in Brooklyn.

After that, John went off to serve our country, and I started making wedding plans. John earned many medals of bravery that we had framed and always display. I worked as secretary to the Navy commander at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I couldn’t believe I got that as my first job, but it really worked out. John returned home in May 1954. We got married Nov. 27, 1954, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Greenpoint and hosted a “football” wedding afterward for hundreds of family members and friends.

Football weddings were common at that time among Italian-American families who could not afford catered affairs. Working-class couples would plan wedding celebrations at home or at a casual banquet hall and serve a variety of tasty homemade sandwiches wrapped in wax paper. The sandwiches would be stacked high on a table and during the reception, and a guest would call out which variety they wanted to the person in charge of the food table. That person would hurl the sandwich, like a football, across the room to the guest, hence the phrase “football wedding."

We honeymooned in Miami. When we returned we moved into an apartment but stayed only a month because of the early morning truck noise from a business next door. We moved into an apartment on Grove Street, where we stayed for a few years.

Our daughter, Terry, was born in 1956, and our son, Mario, was born 1958. After that we moved to a home in East Meadow, where we still live today. We have two wonderful grandchildren, Robert and Stephanie, both of whom have brought us tremendous joy. We are expecting our first great-grandchild at the end of the year and feel very blessed.

John and I enjoyed traveling throughout our marriage. It’s not easy to pick a favorite destination, but we particularly loved Italy. We saw this beautiful country from New York to California and back in a motor home with the kids. That was a memorable vacation.  

John is a retired New York City police detective, and I am a retired administrative and medical secretary who worked at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park. We still enjoy dancing at our local senior center events and will celebrate our 65th wedding anniversary on Nov. 27 by renewing our vows at St. Raphael’s Church in East Meadow.

— 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 Love Story, Newsday, 6 Corporate Center Dr., Melville, NY 11747; or email 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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