Stephen Pagano of East Meadow recalls the photo that led him on a search to meet his future wife, Kathy.
All high school seniors look forward to seeing their final yearbook in print, and I was no exception. Eagerly scanning through the 1971 “Excalibur” yearbook in my senior year at Floral Park Memorial High School in Queens, I came upon a picture on page 92 that really caught my eye. There, sitting at her desk, was the most beautiful young girl. The caption read, “Sophomore Kathleen Kennedy takes a rest from jotting down notes.”
So my quest began to meet her. I looked through the rest of the yearbook trying to find any friends we might have in common. Yes, this was an early form of “stalking,” but I hope in a nice way. Even after the school year ended and I graduated, I continued my search.
Through a friend of mine, I was able to meet one of her close friends and learned that she lived in Bellerose Village, about five blocks from my house in Bellerose Terrace.
Every day, my friend and I rode our bicycles around Kathy’s neighborhood hoping to catch a glimpse of her. On one afternoon in early July 1971, I saw her walking with her friends. I rode right up to her and said, “Do you know I can stop on a dime?” She just looked at me. Then I dropped a dime out of my pocket and steered my bike so that my front tire was on it. This could have ended badly, but it didn’t. As far as I can remember she laughed.
I introduced myself. She didn’t seem surprised that I just showed up on her block. I’m sure she had heard that I liked her and was looking for her.
Kathy was 15 and I was 17. I ended up giving her a ride around the village on my bike. We talked and talked. I told her I was starting classes at Nassau Community College in September. Later, when I dropped her back at her house, I asked her out.
A week later, I picked her up for our first date and met her parents, which is always a scary moment for a teenage boy. We went to the Floral Park theater and saw a movie starring John Wayne, plus a short film about trains, which for some reason made us laugh so hard. We continued seeing each other and two years later went to Kathy’s senior prom.
On July 10, 1977, we were married at the Roslyn Country Club. We have one daughter, a son-in-law and a new grandchild.
Kathy was a floral designer for 25 years. She now teaches line dancing at senior centers. I am a professor at Five Towns College in Dix Hills. We enjoy taking ballroom dance lessons together.
This month, we celebrated our 40th anniversary with a romantic dinner on Fire Island. It is remarkable how our life together began with that yearbook picture. I have written a few songs dedicated to my wife, including one about how we met. It is titled, “I Saw Her Picture in Our Yearbook.” My favorite line from the song is, “My life is complete yes I found my pearl, that picture’s still mine and Kathy’s my girl.”
— With Virginia Dunleavy