By Kristen Hetland
NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — On Oct. 10, 2010 at 10:10 a.m. Bob Szalai married his long-time sweetheart Brenda Sponzilli in a beautiful white castle. The perfect fairytale but with a few modern day twists.
Married less than three months after getting engaged, some might say the wedding was a little bit of a surprise. But ask either of them and they’ll attest it was actually quite a long time coming.
“From the very first time I met her, I knew I loved her,” Bob, 47, said of his now wife, Brenda, 48.
Bob and Brenda met in Kindergarten at Albert Payson Terhune Elementary School in Wayne, N.J.
Good friends with Bob’s sister, Lisa, Brenda spent a lot of time at the Szalai house as a child.
“I remember one day Brenda was over hanging out with my sister and I thought, ‘Wow, I love Brenda. I’m going to marry her one day,’” Bob said.
But these plans were completely unbeknownst to Brenda.
“He never told me!” she said. “I never knew! If I had known, I would have dated him without a doubt.”
Despite being friends all throughout grammar school and high school, Bob never found the courage to tell Brenda how he felt.
“Everybody had the hots for Brenda,” he explained. “She was always around other guys and I was the ugly kid.”
After high school, the two lost touch and didn’t talk to each other for 29 years.
Bob went on to computer school and Brenda began working for the post office and was even married to another man for seven years.
“Those years that we lost contact, we realized later that we were actually in the same areas, but our paths never crossed,” Brenda said. “It was so strange.”
Bob admitted, however, that he had seen Brenda out a couple times, but did not approach her because he was still too shy and didn’t know if she was available.
“I always wanted Brenda,” he said. “But I never had the ‘huevos’ to ask her out.”
It was not until just over a year ago that Brenda finally found out Bob’s feelings for her.
Through the wonders of the internet, on July 23, 2009, Bob’s sister found Brenda on Facebook.
“My sister called me and said, ‘Hey, Brenda Sponzilli is on here,’” Bob said and the very next day he sent Brenda a message.
“I told her that if the Yankees won tonight, she had to come out with me,” he said.
“And then I said, ‘Well, how will I know if they win or not? I don’t watch baseball,’” Brenda said.
“I told her I would call her and tell her that they won,” he said. “If I had to lie, I would. I wasn’t going to let her go this time.”
The Yankees did win that night, but Bob and Brenda did not meet up.
Brenda, who had spent her entire life in Wayne, N.J. had just recently moved to Tennessee and so was now 15 hours away from the man, who after more than four decades, had finally found the ‘huevos’ to ask her out.
“It didn’t matter though,” Brenda said. “From that day on, we were talking on the phone six to eight hours every night until I drove up to see him a month and a half later.”
Their first date lasted 17 days.
During that time, Brenda sold her house in Tennessee and moved in with Bob in Montclair, N.J.
A little less than a year after their first date, Bob and Brenda were on their way to their 30th high school reunion when Bob decided to make a stop at their old elementary school. There, at the site where he first met Brenda almost 45 years before, Bob got down on one knee and proposed.
“I was completely shocked,” Brenda said. “He would often want to go and just drive around where we had grown up, so I didn’t think this was coming at all, but of course I said yes.”
When they got to the reunion, Bob couldn’t wait to share the news with their whole high school class and made an announcement on stage. He said he couldn’t wait to marry Brenda, and then had the DJ play a song for the couple to slow dance to in the middle of the dance floor as a sort of pre-wedding dance.
“Oh, I was so embarrassed,” Brenda said laughing.
Not wanting a big wedding, Brenda and Bob made plans to elope. And Bob, all about commemorating their past, suggested the two get married at the White Castle restaurant in Clifton, N.J. where they had often ran into each other during high school.
“Also, this way, Brenda could always say she got married in a castle,” Bob added.
“We really didn’t expect anything big,” Brenda said. “We were planning on just ordering some food with our friends and sticking ourselves in the corner.”
But after talking to the manager of the White Castle to make sure it was okay and that they wouldn’t be bothering anyone, Brenda and Bob were contacted by members of the restaurant’s corporate office who wanted to make this day extra special for them.
White Castle not only closed the restaurant exclusively for the happy couple for two hours during the ceremony, but they also decorated the restaurant for them, provided their own professional photographer, and gave complimentary coffee and sliders to everyone in attendance.
“White Castle has been wonderful to us,” Brenda said. “They have been absolutely amazing…And we don’t even have to clean up when we’re done!”
The decorations Brenda picked out for the wedding were blue and white.
“Those are White Castle’s colors!” Brenda laughed. “I didn’t even plan that!”
Leading the ceremony was long-time high school friend of the couple, Mitchell Sacks, who they also found on Facebook.
Since they still wanted to elope, the couple needed a witness for the ceremony. Brenda invited her son, but it wasn’t long before the rest of her family was calling saying they wanted to attend.
“You can’t hide anything from an Italian family!” Brenda joked.
When asked why the couple decided to get married on 10/10/10 at 10:10 a.m., Bob responded, “So then I’ll never forget our anniversary!”
Brenda’s birthday is October 8. Bob says this makes it very easy for him to remember the two most important dates in his marriage.
Brenda has just one requirement: “I expect two separate cards on two separate days!”
The happy couple will be spending the next few days on the Jersey Shore celebrating Brenda’s birthday and their long-awaited marriage.
It seems that in life, it is often the simple things that make us happy. For Bob and Brenda, all they needed was each other and a pack of sliders.