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Love Story: They didn't hit it off  — until they hit it off

Marty and Joyce Levinstein of Port Jefferson Station

Marty and Joyce Levinstein of Port Jefferson Station in July 2019 at Danfords. Credit: Howard Rakowsky

Marty Levinstein of Port Jefferson Station chats about meeting his wife, Joyce (Fisher).

I met Joyce when I was 3 and she was 1. We didn’t hit it off.

My family lived in Forest Hills, Queens, and Joyce’s family lived in Manhattan. Despite our mothers being close, it would be years before I would see Joyce again.

My mother, Aunt Ellie and my grandmother always thought in concert about Joyce and I possibly getting together. When my mother showed Joyce my Forest Hills High School graduation picture, she looked at it and said, "Oh, very nice." No one was encouraged.

Fast forward to 1965. My extended family was vacationing at Gaswirth’s, a bungalow colony in upstate Monticello. Joyce and her family were at Nob Hill, another colony nearby.

Aunt Ellie asked me to drive her and her brand-new Ford Thunderbird to visit a friend. I loved cars and enthusiastically agreed. When we arrived at Nob Hill, I was introduced to Joyce.

When I realized who she was, I got tongue-tied and blurted out, "Do you smoke?"

My mouth was working faster than my brain. I had a long-standing rule of not dating smokers. Joyce wasn't one. We walked to the meeting hall, where I got up the nerve to ask for a date that night. She said she already had one. Then she thought quickly and said, "But I’ll break it."

My luck was changing.

After we dated for three months, I proposed. A diamond gifted from my grandmother was the start of an engagement ring. My mother took it upon herself to design it. Some 36 little diamonds and one big diamond later, we had a cocktail ring, not an engagement ring.

When I gave it to Joyce on bended knee during Hanukkah, she looked at it said, "Oh, very nice" (those words again!) thinking it was just a cocktail ring.

I said, "Joyce, it’s an engagement ring. Will you marry me?"

She said yes. We were married on June 18, 1967, at Leonard's of Great Neck.

I graduated from the University of Miami in 1968 with a bachelor's of education degree, nurturing my love of working with children. I had earlier decided against taking over my dad’s watchband manufacturing business. Joyce had graduated in 1967 from Hunter College with a fine-arts degree. She had earlier earned an associate degree at the Fashion Institute Technology in Manhattan.

We moved to Commack, where I taught fifth grade in various schools for 32 wonderful years. Joyce worked happily for a dentist in Smithtown for 27 years. We moved to South Setauket in 1972 and Port Jefferson Station in 2013.

Toward the end of our careers and into retirement we traveled a lot — to the Caribbean, France, England, Scotland, Belgium and Holland. We enjoyed the planning of each trip.

Joyce, by herself, knocked off a bucket list item and climbed to Base Camp at Mount Everest (17,500 feet). She also did an ecology tour of Africa and finished more than 35 half and full marathons around the world.

Because of health limitations, I couldn't go on the big trips, but I took photos during the others. My hobbies include radio-controlled model aircrafts. I have more than 20 model airplanes, helicopters and drones. Joyce says that we don’t live in a house, we live in a hangar. I played tennis for many years.

We have two sons: Jason, 51, a police officer in Florida and Seth, 47, an NYPD helicopter pilot. Our two grandchildren, Sophia and Cooper, live in Florida.

We just celebrated our 54th wedding anniversary.

My advice: Never go to bed without kissing each other good-night.

— 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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