Couples From Life Enrichment Center Of Oyster Bay Share Their Stories

While the day of love may have been over a week ago, that does not mean Valentine’s Day is over for us.
Last week, we spoke with three couples from the Glen Cove Senior Center about their love stories. And this week, in a part two, we’re going to hear from two longtime couples from the Life Enrichment Center of Oyster Bay. With 50-plus years of marriage, these couples will share advice for what makes a marriage last.

Patricia and Gene Pileggi
(Photo courtesy the Pileggis’)

Patricia and Gene Pileggi
Length of marriage: 57 years
How they met: Patricia and Gene Pileggi met when he was 25 and she was 22.
“He was walking down the street with his friend Phil,” Patricia said. “Phil was dating my sister. [Gene] was very handsome. We were part of a group of platonic friends for a number of years. We would all hangout and do things as a group.”
Their first date was the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Patricia recalls stopping at a church on their date. They dated for about a year before they got married.
Before they met, the two were already well accomplished. Patricia worked as a secretary at an engineering company and traveled by herself for seven weeks in Europe. She got her LPN license at Glen Cove Hospital when there was a school there, and won an award for best bedside manner. Gene took over his father’s dry cleaning business and learned the business, went on many vacations and joined the Army Reserves. The two had common values; including the importance of family and the desire for adventures.
What married life has looked like: “I have a very strong feeling that Gene and I were both blessed and that we both came from very stable childhood homes,” said Patricia Pileggi. “I am 79 and Gene is 82 at this state and we’ve been married for 57 years. I think knowing so many people and family and friends who have gone through difficult times, I just really feel grateful for all the things that have gone good in my life. Having healthy children is another thing… Our kids have always been healthy. All the stories I tell about them have been joyful. They have many individual accomplishments.”
Where life has taken them: Patricia and Gene live in Bayville. “When you live here, it gives you so much comfort; walking the beaches, the sunsets, all of that,” Patricia said.
Even during their marriage, they emphasized achieving their individual goals. Gene became a pilot when he was 50 and bought his own plane. And Patricia got her college education in her thirties. Today, pictures fill the Pileggis’ walls of all their adventures as a family, from the Grand Canyon, Italy or Ireland.
The secret to a long marriage: “They say people don’t change, and I disagree with that,” Patricia said. “I remember I was the night person when I was younger and now I’m the morning person, and my husband was just the opposite. Sometimes you become more active and then less active. Your friends change. Some die and some move off. So what you routinely used to do, like going to the movies on Saturday, changes. We do have areas of disagreement, which every couple has… I think the basic thing that keeps us together is that we love each other. This is not always felt. It’s not always shown. But deep down we both know that it’s there.”

Walter and Patricia Smith
(Photo courtesy the Smiths’)

Patricia and Walter Smith
Length of marriage: 58 years
How they met: “We met through my father,” Patricia Smith said. “My husband went to visit him at the hospital, I went at the same time and that’s how we met. I was 17 and he was 19. We were married a year and a half later after we first met. Our first date was a movie and a hamburger joint in Flushing.”
What married life has looked like: “Life sometimes is not easy,” Patricia said. “But we’ve always been two people that communicate with each other and we always talk and we never, ever raise our voices at each other. We never yell at each other. Anytime there’s a problem we sit down together and figure it out, and if we can’t, we compromise or agree to disagree.”
Where life has taken them: They had a son and now have two grandchildren who are 19 and 24. Patricia comes from a big family, so they’re used to always having family around them. Walter worked as a contractor and Patrica worked at a bank. When her grandchildren were born, she began babysitting them, and she said it has been a wonderful time in their life. They moved from Sea Cliff to Oyster Bay a year and a half ago. “We just lived a good life,” Patricia said.
On Feb. 14, the Smiths renewed their vows at the Town of Oyster Bay’s Vow Renewal event.
The secret to a long marriage: “Being able to know what each one is thinking and to know that you have somebody who is going to take care of you and love you no matter what,” Patricia said. “It’s somebody you can just rely on. If something goes wrong, you know you just have that person. It makes it easy to get through life.”

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