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Love Story: They were friends until romance bloomed

With Janet and Pat Mennona's big anniversary celebration

With Janet and Pat Mennona's big anniversary celebration postponed by the pandemic, Janet says they celebrate their 60 years together every day. Credit: Mennona Family

Janet Mennona talks about her life with her husband, Pasquale.

Pat, as he's known, and I met in Lake Ronkonkoma in 1950. I, Janet Wolf then, lived in Richmond Hill, Queens, and Pat lived in Astoria. Each family had a vacation bungalow near Lake Ronkonkoma where we spent our summers. Pat caught my eye as I was walking down the street near our bungalow. I was 11, he was 12.

I followed him around like a puppy dog until he talked to me. We became friends right away. We swam in the lake with our cousins and friends, and his two sisters became my best friends. By September, we were “an item” (as much as 11- and 12-year-olds can be). During the winter we phoned each other (on a party line) every Thursday evening. Our relationship continued through our high school years. Pat graduated from Long Island City High School in 1956, and I graduated from John Adams High School in 1957.

We had our first formal date when I was 16. Pat took two buses and a subway to pick me up. We went to Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan and dinner afterward. We had such butterflies in our stomachs we can’t remember the movie or the restaurant. Pat started attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study electrical engineering. I went to Katharine Gibbs School in Manhattan to become a legal secretary. I wrote to Pat daily to ward off his loneliness during his time at college.

I got a secretarial job at Reid & Priest, a law firm on Wall Street, while Pat was in college. We planned to marry after he graduated.

My parents weren’t excited about our relationship. Interfaith marriages were frowned upon then (I was German-Protestant and Pat was Italian-Catholic). Our parents finally agreed, and we were engaged in November 1959 with the most sparkly ring I’ve ever seen. I still revel in its brilliance.

After Pat got his electrical engineering degree and a commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force ROTC, we were married June 18, 1960, at St. Rita’s Roman Catholic Church in Astoria. I was in heaven! We lived with Pat’s parents while Pat went to Columbia University for his master's degree in electrical engineering. After Pat graduated, we moved to base housing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Our three children were born in Dayton during our four years there.

In 1965, Pat left the Air Force active duty as a captain and immediately started a career in aerospace at Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. on Long Island. We moved to Nesconset. He became an engineering/program director on the F-14 Fighter program (the "Top Gun" plane) and traveled monthly across the country. Meanwhile, I loved working for the Town of Smithtown as a senior center manager.

Pat and I both retired in 1998. We planned to travel, but the relaxed retirement lifestyle started to appeal to us. We sold our home and moved to an extremely active condo community in Hauppauge where dances, happy hours, pool parties, card and boutique parties, trips to Broadway shows and travel are popular. And we got involved in all of it! We never expected to meet so many wonderful people who have become our second family!

We’re thrilled our children have wonderful spouses. Our son, Nick, a broker in Manhattan and his wife, Virginia, gave us two wonderful grandchildren. Our daughters, Christine and Lori, work together in sales and accounting. We were planning a big anniversary celebration in June but have postponed that until 2021. We celebrate our 60 years together every day.

— 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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