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Love Story: The music he heard was in his heart

Anthony and Agatha Monteleone on Feb. 13, 2021,

Anthony and Agatha Monteleone on Feb. 13, 2021, after a Mass and renewal of their wedding vows, performed by their son, at St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Smithtown.  Credit: Rene Monteleone

Agatha (Altomare) Monteleone of Nesconset talks about meeting her husband, Anthony.

"May I have this dance?" he asked.

"But the music’s not playing," I said.

"It will be," he countered.

And thus our love story began. We were at a Catholic college alumni dance at Stouffer’s restaurant in Garden City on a January evening in 1970. I was 29 and lived in Queens Village with my mother. Anthony, 31, lived in Manhasset Hills with his family.

The music resumed, and we danced to every song afterward. Later we had coffee and split an English muffin at Howard Johnson’s in Mineola. My friend Betty and a young man she had met earlier joined us.

That evening Anthony and I learned we were both Italian-Americans, both educators (he was a guidance counselor at what was then Half Hollow Hills High School in Dix Hills; and I was a social studies teacher at Glen Cove High School) and both loved to dance. Conversation came easily. He wrote my phone number on a tiny coat-check ticket, and I thought, "I’ll never hear from him again." Betty assured me he would call. And he did!

We dated through winter and spring and became serious when he asked me to call him "Anthony" and not "Tony." Only people close to him called him "Anthony." At The Broadcasters Inn in Fresh Meadows, Queens, in late May, he sort of proposed. Sort of? He asked if I would like a ring for my birthday.

"A birthstone ring?" I asked.

"No, an engagement ring," he said.

I accepted! Later he asked my mother for my hand in marriage. On Feb. 13, 1971, we were married at Incarnation Roman Catholic Church in Queens Village and celebrated with a reception at the Allison House in Manhasset.

We purchased our "starter" home in Nesconset, where we still live today. By 1976 we had three children, David, Michele and Andrew. We felt blessed. Not only was Anthony a caring, considerate and loving husband, he was a super dad.

I took a break from teaching when our children were very young, but I resumed in the 1980s at Centereach High School and then St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington.

Anthony continued as a counselor at what is now Half Hollow Hills High School East. Our lives were busy but joyful.

The music in our lives changed with the death of our precious 12-year-old daughter, Michele, in 1986 after complications from liver transplant surgery three years earlier. We were devastated, but with God’s good grace we somehow survived. Our marriage was again tested when each of us faced serious health issues. However, with prayers and modern medicine we came through these challenges.

In 1998 we both retired and did a little traveling. I volunteered at the parish outreach program at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Smithtown where I was a eucharistic minister for the homebound. Anthony served a total of 14 years with the Smithtown Library, first as trustee and then president.

We are proud of our sons. David is a priest serving in New Jersey, and Andrew is a successful business owner in Smithtown. He and his lovely wife, Rene, have blessed us with two grandchildren, Gianna and Michael.

The pandemic altered our anniversary plans, but our pastor graciously allowed our son to celebrate the 5 p.m. Mass and renewal of our vows exactly 50 years, to the day, after our actual wedding. Later the whole family enjoyed a wonderful dinner at nearby Osteria Umbra in Smithtown.

I am so happy God pushed Anthony across that empty dance floor to ask me to dance. Let the music play on!

-- 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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