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Couple gets engaged on beach after Long Beach polar plunge

John Conenello, 34, of Mastic Beach, proposed to his girlfriend, Cathy Kourtis, 32, of Massapequa, at the Long Beach Polar Bears Super Bowl Splash on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. Credit: Marilou Arcuri

There was sand in her hair and she couldn’t feel her toes, but as she knelt on the shore in Long Beach beside her new fiance, Cathy Kourtis said she had never been happier.

Kourtis, 32, of Massapequa, told her boyfriend a couple of weeks ago that she decided to participate in the Long Beach polar bear plunge on Sunday.

John Conenello, 34, of Mastic Beach, said he saw it as the perfect opportunity to propose.

“We’re both crazy enough to do something like this,” said Conenello, a utility mechanic for National Grid.

The couple arrived at the beach Sunday — a gray day with temperatures in the mid-40s — and stripped out of their scarves and heavy jackets. Both wore white T-shirts to honor the memory of Jayden Torres, a young boy who died of brain cancer in 2015, said Kourtis, a coding coordinator for Northwell Health.

With their families looking on, the pair sprinted into the bitter cold water together. When Kourtis ran back to shore, Conenello was waiting on one knee — shaking not from the cold but from nerves, he said.

Behind him, Conenello’s nieces unfurled a beach towel which read: “Will You Marry Me?”

Kourtis broke down crying and fell to her knees before the two embraced and Conenello slipped the ring on his fiancee’s finger. Conenello later wrapped her in the beach towel which had printed on its other side: “She Said Yes!”

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Kourtis said. “It all ended up absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”

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