BY ANGELA MATUA, ANTHONY GIUDICE, ALINA SURIEL, STEPHEN VRATTOS AND KATARINA HYBENOVA
This coming Valentine’s Day, we are celebrating love done the Queens way. We selected six couples across the borough who have successful relationships and successful careers; they’re the movers and shakers in their respective fields. We talked to them about how they met, what their greatest accomplishments have been, and what they’re doing for Valentine’s Day.
♥ Don and Katha Cato: founders of Queens World Film Festival
Don and Katha Cato have used the decades of experience in film and performing arts to create the Queens World Film Festival, a staple event in the borough that showcases local and international film talent. This is the sixth year the duo has put on this festival, which is all organized and programmed from their Jackson Heights home.
The Catos have two adult daughters and adorable, healthy grandchildren. Don said that one of their greatest accomplishments as a couple is “doubling down our marriage commitment through sickness to produce recovery — Katha had three cancers — while continuing to contribute to our community.”
How they met: “We met in 1986 on a feature film I was directing near Seattle,” Don Cato told us.
Valentine’s Day plans: “Facetime with our grand daughters; announce QWFF 2016 nominated festival films and go to Armondo’s Italian Restaurant [in Jackson Heights].”
♥ Ashley Copperstone and Brian Geraghty: food bloggers from Queens Eats
Woodside residents Ashley Copperstone, 23, and Brian Geraghty, 24, are the food bloggers behind the popular Instagram account QueensEats. The two travel throughout Queens to sample all kinds of cuisine, posting photos and descriptions of each dish to bring publicity and recognition to their favorite local food businesses. Copperstone works as an early childhood educator by day and Geraghty is set to begin medical school this year.
How they met: In college when Geraghty helped Copperstone move into her freshman dorm. Although it was not love at first sight, they have been a couple for five years and just got engaged in December at the fancy M. Wells Steakhouse in Long Island City.
Valentine’s Day plans: The couple will be eating and blogging about sushi from Flushing’s restaurant Iki.
♥ Lexi Beach and Connie Rourke: owners of Astoria Bookshop
The wife-and-wife duo Lexi Beach and Connie Rourke jointly own and operate the Astoria Bookshop, an independent bookstore located at 31-29 31st St. The bookstore is popular for its well-curated, diverse selection of fiction and non-fiction books, as well as its slew of literary events, including a monthly book club, making it a true book lover’s nook.
Rourke told us that it was Beach’s idea to open the bookstore. “I’d worked in book publishing for a number of years and was looking for the next step in my career when I learned that Astoria was in desperate need of a bookstore. I convinced Connie to agree to the plan by telling her that she’d get to read picture books to small children on a regular basis,” she told us.
How they meet: “We met through a mutual friend, and we got married in March 2013, on the first day of spring.”
Valentine’s Day plans: “We’re planning to have a romantic dinner at home and to make bananas Foster. Any dessert we can set on fire with a kitchen torch is OK by us.”
♥ Lee and Marilyn Wallace: the showbiz couple
Most Broadway flops fade into obscurity, but this one produced a hit that’s been running for nearly 40 years and shows no sign of stopping.
Stage and screen actor Lee Wallace may best be remembered as the mayor of Gotham City in Tim Burton’s “Batman.” His wife, Marilyn Chris, played Wanda Webb Wolek on the television soap opera “One Life to Live” from 1972 to 1994. A few years ago, the couple moved from their Manhattan apartment of more than 30 years to North Shore Towers in Floral Park, Queens, where Marilyn quickly set about establishing SFF@NST (Shore Film Festival at North Shore Towers).
How they met: The dramatic duo met in 1974 when both were cast in the musical “Laugh a Little, Cry a Little.” “It was a terrible show: bad, bad, bad jokes,” recalls Marilyn. When she met Lee, a huge unlit cigar protruded from his mouth.
“Are you going to smoke that thing?!” Marilyn asked.
“Not near you, honey!” Lee replied before walking off.
Given their characters were married to each other, it was inevitable they’d be thrust together whether they liked it or not. They liked it, and even the failure of the musical, which never made it to Broadway, could not tear them apart.
Valentine’s Day plans: The star-crossed sweethearts are spending a less-than-romantic Valentine’s Day unpacking boxes after the fourth move in three years. Since their initial relocation to North Shore Towers, they’ve maneuvered to bigger and better apartments twice before and have recently landed in a premier spot overlooking Lake Success, where they intend to stay … “until the next one,” Marilyn concluded with a laugh.
♥ Sarah Feldman and Neil Myers of Ridgewood Social and Ridgewood Market
Sarah Feldman is the creative mind behind the wildly popular Ridgewood Social and Ridgewood Market, while her fiancé, Neil Myers, is her silent partner who keeps everything running smoothly. Feldman had the idea for Ridgewood Social to be a place where people could meet in the neighborhood and hosted its first meeting in June 2012 with 14 participants. Ridgewood Social has grown exponentially since then.
Ridgewood Market idea was born after visiting a market in the area. She hosted the first Ridgewood Market in April 2014, which saw more than 600 customers come through the doors. Myers now helps with the configuration and setup of every market, making sure customers and vendors have adequate space to move and sell their wares.
Feldman also teaches are at the Ridgewood Y and is a member of Community Board 5. The couple got engaged in June 2014 at one of their markets. “We won’t be getting married at a market,” the couple says, laughing.
How they met: “I met Neil five years ago in at an artisanal market in Manhattan,” Feldman said. “I had a table next to his at the market. Neil was living in Ridgewood and showed me the neighborhood. We’ve been living together, happily I can say, ever since two years ago.”
“I showed her around Ridgewood and she fell in love with it,” Myers said. “Now we love it there. We don’t see ourselves leaving any time soon.”
Valentine’s Day plans: “Last year we went to a crazy costume party, but this year we want to relax and might go out to dinner and movie,” Feldman said.
“We might go on an adventure to Long Island with our little shih tzu,” Myers added. “We try to be as relaxed as possible. We really want to kick back and relax and enjoy the neighborhood. We are going to take advantage of the three-day weekend.”
♥ Jimmy Van Bramer and Dan Hendrick: politician and filmmaker
Politician Jimmy Van Bramer and filmmaker Dan Hendrick say that relationships are like a living being — they need love, focus and attention. We couldn’t agree more. The couple were married in July 2012 and Van Bramer was the first openly gay elected official to be married in Queens.
Van Bramer is currently serving his second four-year term as the councilman for District 26, which encompasses Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Astoria. He is a lifelong western Queens resident and lives in Sunnyside Gardens with his husband Dan Hendrick.
Hendrick, the director for external affairs for NRG Energy, has also produced the first-ever documentary on Jamaica Bay titled “Jamaica Bay Lives.” He is premiering the film at the Queens World Film Festival next month.
How they met: “Flashback to 1999, at the Kew Gardens Community House! A mutual friend introduced us at a fundraiser for the Queens Pride House. When Jimmy asked the friend who that guy was in the glasses, our friend replied, ‘That’s funny because Dan just asked me who the guy is the suit is. That’s you, Jimmy.’ We’ve been together ever since.”
Valentine’s Day plans: “Dan is picking out the menu for a nice meal at home right now! We’ve already got the candles and wine … Recipe suggestions are welcome!”