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Love Story: He went to see old work pals, and met his future

John and Janice Fonte at a restaurant in

John and Janice Fonte at a restaurant in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2019. Credit: Fonte Family

John Fonte of Lake Ronkonkoma remembers how an old friend's invitation led to a chance meeting with his future wife, Janice.

In 1984, the week before Christmas, my friend and former co-worker Steve called to invite me to a party at his home in Bethpage. We had worked together at Sears in Hicksville during our college years, and he had invited several other friends from Sears as well as his classmates from the University at Albany. I already had plans for that Saturday, but I gladly accepted his invitation because it had been four years since I had seen many of those people.

I arrived at Steve’s party early, intending to stay a while and meet up with my friends afterward. There weren't many people there when I arrived, but I noticed an attractive, smartly dressed woman about my age sitting by herself. Steve introduced her to me as Janice Kappus, a suite-mate from his dorm at Albany.

Janice and I started a conversation, and I had her undivided attention for a short while. I learned that she taught at Lindenhurst High School and lived with her parents in Bay Shore while working toward her master’s degree at LIU Post. I told her I lived with my folks in East Meadow, had graduated from Hofstra University and was accounting manager for a large tour operator based in Manhattan.

As more guests arrived, Janice and I drifted apart to catch up with others, but I was already smitten by her. I made it a point to wander back to her from time to time for a friendly word or two. When it was time for me to leave, I wanted to ask for her telephone number, but she was in a conversation with a group of people. I didn’t interrupt, but made sure to ask Steve for her number the next day. After getting the OK from Janice, Steve gave me her contact information.

We had our first date on the first Saturday in 1985 at the Wine Barrel, a restaurant in Babylon Village. Once there, we talked without a lull in the conversation, and time seemed to fly by. I learned about her likes and values, including her love of family and her pets. I found her quirky sense of humor endearing. By the end of the date, I knew she was the one for me. I proposed to her in the very same place 10 months later.

We were married on Oct. 25, 1986, at St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Bay Shore. Mets fans may remember the infamous Mookie Wilson ground ball that trickled through Bill Buckner’s legs and gave the Mets the Game 6 win over the Red Sox. We'd caught a few innings of the game, while the Mets were still losing, at a bar during our after-party. On the 27th, while on our flight to Hawaii for our honeymoon, everyone cheered when the pilot announced the Mets had won Game 7 and the series.

After our honeymoon, we moved to an apartment in Farmingdale. Two years later, we purchased our home in Lake Ronkonkoma.

Our daughter, Kaitlyn, was born in 1989, followed by our son, Brendan, in 1993. Janice left teaching for 10 years to be a stay-at-home mom. After that, she taught in private schools, finishing her career in 2015 at Ivy League School in Smithtown. I am currently vice president of finance for a Manhattan luxury retailer.

We love to travel, having visited more than half of the United States and made five trips to Europe. I look forward to continuing this wonderful journey of discovery with the woman I love and unexpectedly met so long ago.

— With Laura Mann

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