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Love Story: They danced into each other's lives — and hearts

Estella and Bob Clasen participate in a virtual

Estella and Bob Clasen participate in a virtual dance showcase in July 2020. They have developed a love of dancing in their 30 years of marriage.  Credit: Stephanie Falciano

Estella (Frankin) Clasen talks about meeting her husband, Bob

Bob and I met in March 1985 at a Friday night “happy hour” at Shadows, a popular nightclub that was in Stony Brook. I lived in Bellport and was a physical education teacher in the Central Islip School District. After catching each other’s eye, we both tried to work up the courage to start a conversation.

Although we don’t recall who broke the ice, we wound up dancing together and talking afterward. We discovered we had both signed up for the Long Island Half Marathon then sponsored by Newsday. And that began our joint love of running.

When I asked Bob how his training for the half marathon was progressing, he told me he planned to run the race just for fun. I suggested that he do some training runs, then try a few shorter road races. We agreed to run a 10k race in Dix Hills together about a week or two later. Not surprisingly, Bob began the race at a killer pace for the first two miles then “crashed” and stumbled to the finish line after I passed him along the way.

Bob went on to become an accomplished distance runner, and we have since competed in numerous road races around Long Island and the country.

Our first “date” was breakfast at the Dix Hills diner after the Long Island Marathon. We dated for five years before getting married on Aug. 18, 1990, on the Bay Mist, a partyboat that sailed out of Patchogue. It was a great day celebrating with 120 friends and family members. After honeymooning in Hawaii, Bob moved into the home I owned in Bellport where we still live 30 years later. We have no children but enjoy our 22 nieces and nephews — and 21 grand nieces and nephews.

I retired in 2005 from the Central Islip School District, where I taught physical education for 33 years. Bob recently retired from State Farm, where he was an attorney in its Jericho location.

We are still active members of the Bohemia Track Club. Bob is the president, and I handle the membership as well as the club's website and Facebook page. Until the pandemic passes, we’re doing virtual runs or walks to keep in shape.

Meanwhile, our main leisure-time activity has become dancesport, another name for competitive ballroom dancing. We compete in categories like "American rhythm" (cha-cha, rumba, swing, bolero and mambo) and in "smooth dances," including the waltz, tango, fox-trot and Viennese waltz. We especially enjoy doing showcases in which we can pick our own music and incorporate tricks into our routines.

I was fortunate to find someone who enjoys the same active lifestyle that I do. Bob is the first to jump in and help a relative or friend. He has always been generous with his time to others.

We had planned a trip to the western national parks to celebrate our 30th anniversary, but that has been put on hold for at least another year because of COVID-19. Instead we enjoyed dinner with friends at The Oar Steak & Seafood Grill, in Patchogue, a place that happens to be down the street from the spot where we departed on the Bay Mist partyboat for our wedding 30 years ago.

My advice to young couples is to enjoy your activities together and don't be afraid to try something new.

— With Ann Donahue-Smukler

TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU MET. Access the online form at — or send an anecdote along with your phone number and a photo to, 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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