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Baldwin High school sweethearts get engaged

Gino’s Pizza manager to tie the knot

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High school sweethearts Samantha Perez and Salvatore Trigona are engaged to be married.

On April 17, the two 26-year-old Baldwinites visited Del Vino Vineyards in Northport, their favorite vineyard. Perez said she had no idea that when the pair sat down for lunch that afternoon, Trigona would suddenly kneel on one knee and ask her to marry him. She said she followed the proposal with a “yes” through tearful eyes.  

“When he proposed, I melted,” Perez said. “I felt so loved.” 

“I was so nervous before I popped the question,” said Trigona, who has been the manager of Gino’s Pizza in Baldwin Harbor for seven years. 

Perez, who attended Baldwin Middle School and Baldwin High School, said she met Trigona one summer day in August 2009. She had invited a few of her friends to visit her home, and to her surprise, her friends invited Trigona to tag along. At the time, Trigona had recently moved from South Carolina to Baldwin, and he started as a freshman at Baldwin High School that September, along with Perez. 

When he first saw Perez, Trigona recalled, he was instantly attracted, and became quieter than usual. When Perez’s friends noticed how unusually timid Trigona was behaving, they joked about it. Then, Trigona, who was a member of his South Carolina middle school’s wrestling team, said he decided to retaliate.

“To everyone’s surprise, Salvatore dropped and threw one of my friends over his shoulder, and then they landed on the ground with a thud, and there’s still an indent in my front lawn to this day,” Perez said with a giggle. 

Trigona said he continued to have strong feelings for Perez for nine months after their first introduction. Perez said, however, that she did not share those feelings at first.

“We ended up in the same math class in our freshman year of high school, and I was dating other guys and not thinking of Salvatore in that way at that time,” Perez said. “All of our friends secretly knew that Salvatore had a crush on me, but I just didn’t know. I was surprised when I first found out he liked me.” 

In early May 2010, when Perez was 15, she went to the Dominican Republic with her family because her mother needed a stem cell surgery to receive treatment for multiple sclerosis. During those two weeks in the Dominican Republic, Perez said Trigona did something that none of her other friends did. 

“He would call and text me practically every day while I was in D.R. to talk and ask me how I was doing because he knew that I needed support during that time,” she said. “My mom has been sick my whole life with multiple sclerosis. While I was in D.R., I realized that Salvatore had been right under my nose the whole time. He was always there for me.” 

The day after Perez returned from her trip, she invited Trigona to take her school bus home after school. After they got off of the bus, Perez said she chased after Trigona down the block and then jumped in his arms and asked him to be her boyfriend. Trigona said “yes.”

The pair, who said they have known each other for 11 years and nine months, said they are glad that they were friends before entering into a romantic relationship with each other. 

“I started dating at a young age, and the relationships I had were very immature and toxic,” Perez said. “I was looking for love in all the wrong facets, but then, when I met Salvatore, he was just unimaginably kind and caring and set apart.”

“We were friends, first, and then we became lovers,” she continued, “and I believe that worked better for us, because dating a stranger is definitely different than dating your best friend.” 

“If you’re not best friends, then why are you in a relationship? It doesn’t make sense,” Trigona said.

Perez and Trigona landed “Mr. and Mrs. BHS” for senior superlatives in their Baldwin High School yearbook. The now engaged high school sweethearts said they plan to remain engaged for at least three years before they wed.

They plan to move to Colorado Springs this week, where they will live together. There, Perez said she will work a new job as a mental health counselor, and Trigona has already found work at a new pizzeria. 

“It’s bittersweet leaving Gino’s and leaving Baldwin,” Trigona said. “When I’m with Samantha, I’m at my happiest. We have each other’s back.” 

“It will be hard to leave Baldwin,” Perez agreed. “Me and Salvatore have such a long history of ups and downs and so much growth. We make each other’s lives better, and I’m really grateful to have my best friend and love of my life.”