OSWEGO — It was 1958 when Eleanor Kaminski Pucciariello of Glen Cove met Nick Pucciariello from Brooklyn while the pair of future 1962 graduates were waiting in line to register for their first SUNY Oswego classes.
“We engaged in conversation easily and I remember feeling delighted that we had several classes together,” Ellie said. “We didn’t date at first but we spent time together between classes doing crossword and number puzzles and playing cribbage. We established a friendship that became the base of a 52-year marriage.”
Six decades after that initial meeting, and because of all of the assistance and opportunity the couple had, Ellie said, they have established a scholarship at Oswego for students in the School of Education.
“Our training to become teachers at SUNY Oswego cost less than $1,000 for both of us,” Ellie said. So in honor of their time in Oswego, the Nick and Ellie Pucciariello ’62 Scholarship was established, which each year benefits a full-time student in the School of Education pursuing a career in teaching.
“Since 1962 there have been so many changes in the world which affect the needs of children in school,” Ellie said. “What is true today and was true in 1962 is that if a teacher can instill a love of learning in a child, that child will flourish. Education is a very important profession. A teacher can have an effect on a child that will chart the course of the child’s life.”
Ellie and Nick started dating in October of their first year as students. While listening to the romantic strains of “Rhapsody in Blue” in the college library, they realized they were soul mates.
As freshmen, Nick shared an apartment with four other students; Ellie lived in D Dorm and Kingsford Hall. It was May — the conclusion of that first year — when they planned their future.
They calculated that with Nick’s GI Bill (he was a Navy veteran), plus the money they earned during the summer, they could live together better and cheaper than by living separately, Ellie said.
“We were confident that we would achieve academic success better as a couple than as individuals,” Ellie said.
So they eloped on Sept. 8, 1959, or one year after meeting each other in that registration line.
Ellie described the wedding day: “Nick met me at Penn Station. We were married by a judge in NYC and we had lunch at Walgreens. Since we had time before our flight to Syracuse, we went to Radio City Music Hall and saw the movie ‘It Started With A Kiss.'”
Their parents were dismayed at first, Ellie said, but when they saw that the young couple was managing well, they were supportive of the marriage.
The Pucciariellos had an apartment on West Bridge Street, walking distance to the college.
“We always felt we had a three-year honeymoon while being students,” Ellie said.
For entertainment, the couple took part in activities at the college and socialized with student friends. On New Year’s Day 1961, the student couple who were in their junior year of college made local headlines and were the recipients of many gifts from local merchants because their daughter, Nikki, was the New Year Baby of Oswego County. The couple went on to have a son, Charles; they also have three grandchildren.
“Nick was a hands-on Dad so we were both able to meet our academic responsibilities,” Ellie said of her young, new family in 1961. “We were fortunate to have a happy, healthy baby.”
Success in education
The Pucciariellos graduated in May 1962. Nick started his teaching career as a math teacher at Ellie’s alma mater, Glen Cove High School; Ellie was part of Glen Cove’s new team-teaching approach for sixth-grade students.
“There were three teams of four teachers and each team had a new graduate on its team,” Ellie said. “I was fortunate to be one of them. It was an advantage to work with three master teachers; the excellent education I received at Oswego prepared me well and gave me confidence.”
For many years Nick taught math, and Ellie taught English, social studies and science. They also taught the SAT Prep course, the GED classes and classes in the evening in a high school diploma program.
Nick earned a master’s degree in education from Adelphi University with a grant from the National Science Foundation, and Ellie earned a master’s in social work from Adelphi University with a federal grant.
In 2011, Nick died following a courageous battle with cancer. But his memories live on through family and friends, and through their shared legacy that supports future educators in the college where they met and paved the way to their futures.