All You Need Is Love: Summit Seniors Share Their Longlasting Love Stories
Stories of true love and devotion are found throughout the Hill City. To mark Valentines Day, we present a few tales of enduring commitment and love.
“Love makes the world go round.” It’s a familiar theme, one we hear a lot come Valentine’s Day. When we see love portrayed in media, generally we see the version of it that Madison Avenue and pop-culture filmmakers sell, one featuring impossibly dewy ingenues and their strong, strapping saviors. Most of us surely have experienced some version of fireworks and rainbows romance, but real love, that which stands the test of time, is not for the immature or weak. Still, those tales of love that is tested and true tend to be the stories that resonate most. And in the Hill City, there are many of them within our everyday existence.
To mark Cupid’s holiday, Patch went looking for real-deal love stories, and we found many heartwarming tales – along with really good advice – during a recent visit to the Community Center on Morris Avenue. In the process, we heard stories both happy and sad, but the overwhelming message disseminated bore out what we’ve always sensed and what the Beatles told us more than 40 years ago: “All you need is love.”
Nick and Antoinette
Senior citizens from Summit and surrounding towns gather at the Community Center each Friday morning for conversation, good-natured games of cards or pool, and friendship. One of these active and vital seniors is Nick Mosso. The 93-year-old was all too happy to talk about the love story shared by he and his wife, Antoinette, 87, who was busy playing an intense game of dominoes nearby with a group of girlfriends.
“We’ve been married 62 years,” Nick stated proudly.
“No,” interrupted his patient spouse, who is known as Ann. “In April, it’ll be 65 years. He doesn't know what he's talking about.”
Nick accepted the correction with a smile and without missing a beat: “Sixty-five years. I'm trying to cut it down.”
When asked how the couple met, Ann, focused on her dot-covered tiles, waved off the question. “It was so long ago, I don't remember,” she said.
Her husband recalled their first encounter somewhat clearly. “We met at a wedding. We got to talking, and she said she would make me a pie.”
“No, it was a cake,” Ann interjected.
“Right,” Nick said. “She was going to make me a cake. I come from Morristown. She’s a Summit girl. After we met, I started taking her out. One day, I put my hand on her knee. She told me, 'You better go back to Morristown!' I said to myself, ‘Gee, I gotta marry this babe.’”
First, however, he was called to serve his country during World War II. He joined the US Army and served under Gen. Douglas MacArthur. “I worked on his airplanes,” he recalled. Ann maintained contact with him through letters. "I came back after the war, just before Christmas, and we got married the following April.”
The couple made their home in Summit, and in the decades that followed, Nick and Ann raised two daughters and Nick became the owner of a paper company. “Ann used to help me in my business – I also have real estate,” he said, beaming at his wife across the room. “I couldn’t have done it without her. She’s a good girl.”
But life wasn’t always sunshine and roses for the pair. “We have our fights, but we made an agreement,” Nick explained. “If we have a fight during the day, we gotta make up before we get in that bed at night. That's how we do it. I like coffee, she don't like coffee. I don't like ice cream. She says, 'Why don't you like ice cream?’”
The Mossos’ secret to their long, happy marriage is that they enjoy being with each other immensely: "Really, we have a lot of fun together,” Nick said. “We're just lucky.”
Margaret and Lou
Also anxious to share her love story was Margaret Sanfelice, an 86-year-old widow and a lifelong Summit resident. Though her husband died in 1990, her love and admiration for him shined as vibrantly as it must have when she met him as a 16-year-old girl.
“I was Margaret Petraccarro back then, and he was Henry Louis Sanfelice, but everyone called him Lou,” she recalled, while sharing photos of the young pair. “He was 17 at the time. We were both born and raised in Summit, but we had never met. My mother and father knew his mother and father, though. Years and years ago, his parents used to live down on Summit Road where I lived all my life until I was married.”
The two had their first meeting in 1931, while ice skating on a frozen pond in Briant Park. “I saw him at a bonfire,” she remembered. “He was there with other guys and we started talking. He asked me where I went to school. I said, ‘Summit High,’ and he asked, ‘So how come I don’t know you?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve never seen you, either!’ And that was the end of that.”
Not quite. The very next night, Margaret returned to the park only to find Lou with ice skates and an invitation to go on a movie date. They were practically inseparable from that moment on.
World War II raised its head again: Lou joined the Navy and served in, among other places, Pearl Harbor. He returned afterward, hale and healthy, but their love story took a tragic turn.
“The war ended and he came home for 30 days and then went back to California,” Margaret said. “A Navy bus hit him and sent him flying through (its) back window.” Lou ended up being paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. “I was working for the telephone company at the time. My husband’s family got the news, and they told me. I had to make arrangements to get to California to be with him.”
The accident did not lessen Margaret’s love and commitment to Lou. The two were married in 1947 and remained happily wed until his passing in 1990.
“We had a daughter, who’s married now. We have two grandchildren, and oh, he loved them. And he loved our daughter, loved her to death,” she said. “We lived next door to my mother- and father-in-law, which was a blessing – we never had any arguments. I worked and took care of Lou. And he was always busy. He worked with veterans’ groups and set up a photography studio in our home. And he would fly – I’d take him to New York airport and get him on the plane. We even traveled to Italy. We took a month and saw the whole country. We had a good life. We were very happy. That’s how it was.”
As with most paraplegia cases, Lou’s condition worsened over time. By 1987, Margaret could no longer handle caring for her husband on her own. He went to stay in a hospital in East Orange, remaining there for two years. His devoted wife visited him every day from nine in the morning until nine at night. The last year of his life was spent in a care facility in Castle Point, NY. While there, he served as a volunteer, helping other injured veterans to learn how to live life “on the outside.” Margaret was by his side, too, despite fighting her own battles with cancer, staying in a small apartment during the week and returning to their Summit home on weekends to pay bills and handle household tasks.
After a year in Castle Point, Lou returned home. Two months later, while watching the Giants playing football on television, he complained of feeling weak and tired. Margaret checked his blood pressure. “The machine kept reading, ‘Error, Error, Error,’” she recalled. “He just put his head down and died from a heart attack. That’s how he went.”
Margaret insisted that she had no regrets and that her still-strong love for her sweetheart never waned. The secret: Large doses of generosity, selflessness, and commitment. “I never hurt him. I made sure he always knew that he was my rock. He was my life. It was hard, but you just did what was needed. There was no ‘I don’t feel like it.’ He was everything to me. His parents respected me, and we had lots of love.”
Charlie and Millie
The love and commitment between longtime couple Charlie and Millie Connelly, both 79, seems boundless as well. "I'm three months older than her,” Charlie joked, “so for those three months, I'm the old man." The pair have been married 58 years, but they’ve been nearly lifelong friends, having grown up in the same Summit apartment building. In fact, their families moved into the building on the very same day.
They lived “in the center of town, right across the street from where the old Strand Theater used to be,” Millie recalled. “It was like the United Nations: We had Irish, German, Greek, Czechoslovakian.. and Charlie was just another kid in the building. We grew up together, went to school together. I taught him how to dance so he could take his girlfriend to the junior prom. Then he went into the Army and off to Korea. And then we started dating.”
The Connellys had a mixed marriage – he was Roman Catholic; she was Lutheran. “Religion was never an issue. When we got married, I had to sign papers that we would raise the kids Catholic. So, he took the kids to his church and I went to my church,” Millie said.
Charlie says their successful relationship comes from their deep admiration for each other. “We respect one another,” he said. “We all have our good points and bad points. you have to learn to live with one another and respect one another.”
“We just knew early on that we were meant to be,” Millie added. “He’s had his problems, and I helped him. I’ve had mine, and he helped me. And we had faith.”
That faith carried them through raising four kids to adulthood, running a successful plumbing business, and building a happy life in Summit. But that faith was tested when their oldest child, Charlie Jr., a veteran of Desert Storm, was stricken with lymphoma.
“Our son became ill and had a stem-cell transplant and then went into remission,” Millie explained. “During that time, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. Charlie ran the business until his father recovered and went back to work. Then, his lymphoma went out of remission. He had to go through a second transplant, and that didn’t go well. It was a terrible time and our son suffered a lot – he was so thin.” Ultimately, Charlie Jr. died at age 48.
Millie and Charlie were an integral part of their son’s treatment team, and his loss hit them extremely hard, but faith carried them through and brought the couple even closer together.
“We kept in our own religions for many, many years, but I switched over to Lutheran a couple of years back, which I have enjoyed immensely,” Charlie recalled with a smile.
Millie continued the story with a laugh: “Our youngest son said, "Gee, Mom, it only took you 50 years to convert him. Better late than never! But yes, after our (oldest) son died, Charlie started going to church with me, and when he experienced that love and comfort, he joined the Lutheran church."
The Connellys now live in a Springfield apartment. “We simply couldn’t find affordable senior housing in Summit,” Millie explained. “But we see our friends here and we are having a good retirement. We’ve got five wonderful grandchildren, including one who plays trumpet for (the singer) John Legend and travels around the world. We’ve had a lot of laughs and a lot of tears, but mostly laughs. We’ve been very, very blessed.”
Her loyal husband Charlie echoed the sentiment: “She puts up with me because she's got a good sense of humor. Yes, we are blessed.”
The primary thing these stories of longtime devotion share is something all too clear, but often forgotten: Love is the blessing. In good times and bad, and even when a loved one is far away, love, if true, abides.