One day in the summer of 1946, Ginny Lamanda, then 14, was chasing a group of young boys down Park Street, in Lido Beach, in a game of Ringolevio. A 14-year-old boy, Don Kelly, was watching it all from a nearby stoop.
“They were running away from Ginny,” Kelly said in the Point Lookout home he shares with his wife of more than 60 years, Ginny Kelly, née Lamanda. “She was eliciting these blood-curdling screams. I knew right then and there, she was the one.”
“She was so involved with life, so pretty,” Kelly, now 90, said. But, he added, “It took me three years to get up the guts to ask her out.” As teens, they lived two houses apart but barely knew each other.
The couple, who married on Oct. 8, 1955, at Manhattan’s elegant Waldorf Astoria Hotel, plan to spend Valentine’s Day next week the way they have for decades. Ginny will take delivery of a large bouquet of red roses from her husband, and they will go out to dinner.
“Now that we’re approaching 68 years together, I don’t know how a florist is going to handle it,” Don joked.
He and Ginny, he added, will have dinner alone, without their two daughters, Nancy Kelly Gallinaro, of Long Beach, and Diane Tumulty of New Jersey, or their four grandchildren or four great-grandchildren.
Ginny, 89, and Don first started coming to Point Lookout in the summer with their families in 1934. Her family was from Greenwich Village, and his was from Brooklyn. They lived in the city after they married, but moved to Point Lookout in 1980.
How they finally began seriously dating is a story in itself. A friend of Don’s was dating Ginny, but they lived 10 blocks apart from each other on the barrier island. Don was dating a girl who lived near his friend.
“I said, ‘This is ridiculous,’” Don recalled. “‘Why don’t I go out with Ginny and you can go out with the girl I’m dating now?’”
In the late 1940s, Don was attending an all-boys school, Brooklyn Prep, and he needed a date for a party. He had a nickel in his pocket, and used it to call Ginny. She said yes, and they have been virtually inseparable ever since. In their home, there’s a photo of them on that first date, with a nickel stuck inside the wooden frame.
The Kellys are well known in Long Beach arts circles. Don, who started his career as a banker and then began his own financial company in Great Neck, and Ginny, who taught at Long Beach Catholic schools for 34 years, found time over the decades to become instrumental in the success of the Long Beach Theatre Guild, which got its start in the early 1970s. The Kellys got involved later that decade.
Ginny, who has been singing since she was 5, has performed in 168 Theatre Guild productions. Don was the group’s vice president, and Ginny remains its treasurer. Both have done all kinds of work for the organization, setting up props, selling tickets and helping to promote shows.
Their daughter Nancy is now president of the guild.
The Kellys remain an active couple, and are planning some guild shows later this year. Ginny is also the author of two published children’s books, “The Neighbor” and “The Tree House.”
Nancy said that the family has always pulled together, in good and difficult times. Her mother was a Girl Scout leader, and her dad would always get out on the ski slopes with the kids.
“My mom would even go bike-riding with me and my friends,” Nancy recalled. “It wasn’t a protective thing. It was just, Why not?”
How did the Kellys manage to remain married so long? “Primarily, “we are good listeners to each other,” Don said. “We have a great number of friends, and we relish our friendships.”
And there’s something else. “Every night,” he said, “we go to bed holding hands.”