Tom Nassisi remembers the day he met his wife, Anna, like it was yesterday. The fact is, though, that first meeting took place more than three-quarters of a century ago. They made their acquaintance at a dance held at St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus parish in the Bronx. Ironically, it was “the one and only time” she and her sister and mother had visited the borough from their home in New Haven, Conn.
That day began a courtship that would have Nassisi traveling back and forth to New Haven for months, covering “every town, village and hamlet” along the way, as he puts it. But those long-ago journeys paid off for the handsome couple because on Feb. 13 they were honored as the longest-married couple in the archdiocese during a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral celebrating World Marriage Day.
The Nassisis will officially celebrate their 74th anniversary on April 19, but they, and a number of other long-married couples in the archdiocese got a head start on their celebration at the World Marriage Day Mass always offered on the Sunday closest to St. Valentine’s Day. The archdiocesan Family Life/Respect Life Office and Worldwide Marriage Encounter sponsored the contest for longest-married couples and organized the morning liturgy for World Marriage Day.
Archbishop Dolan, who was the main celebrant and homilist, called the married couples “a great example to the entire Church” and led them in a post-Communion renewal of their wedding vows.
The archbishop, in his homily, applied Pope John Paul II’s teachings on the Law of the Gift to the couples being honored.
“We are most like God intended us to be when we give ourselves away in love to somebody else,” the archbishop said. “You give yourself totally, unreservedly to one another in faithful, lifelong marriage.”
A reception, complete with food and refreshments, for the married couples and their family members and friends followed on the cathedral’s lower level. Each of the couples had an opportunity to introduce themselves to the other families.
The Nassisis, who have five children, 13 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren, were joined at the cathedral by 35 relatives and friends. Father Rees Doughty, their pastor at St. Ann’s parish in Nyack and a concelebrant of the cathedral Mass, said the Nassisis are well-known parishioners at St. Ann’s, where Tom has served as a lector for many years. Before moving to Rockland County about 35 years ago, they were parishioners of Holy Rosary in the Bronx.
Family members were quick to tell CNY of their love and pride for Tom, 97, and Anna, 96, more familiarly known as Nina.
Granddaughter Elaine Pikulski said that the family is close-knit and realizes the treasure that they have in their patriarch and matriarch. “They are like royalty to us,” she said.
“It’s amazing that they were the longest-married couple,” she said. “It’s a true honor. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”
Tom Nasissi, standing steps from his bride, said the day was not his or Mrs. Nasissis. “It’s God’s day,” he said.
A long, loving marriage is built one day at a time, Nasissi said. “Forget about yesterday, because it’s gone. Don’t worry about tomorrow, because it hasn’t come yet,” he said. “Make the best of today.”