From high school crushes to marriage: the story of two alumni

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According to Brandon Gaille, a statistics analyst, less than two percent of married couples will have met each other in high school. Luckily for them, James and Karen Curzio, alumni of Townsend Harris, are part of this narrow group.

curzio wedding
Fifteen years after meeting, James and Karen got married.

In 1984, Karen Vandenburg offered James Curzio a piece of gum in THHS’s music room, hoping that she’d be able to talk to him more, but was ultimately turned down. James, however, caught the memo, and taking a liking to Karen, later moved his Delaney card closer so she might be able to see his number. Unfortunately, Karen was oblivious to this move. Fifteen years later, Karen and James got married. Eighteen years later, they welcomed their first child.

“I think James knew we would be together – I was a bit of a rebel and had no plans,” Karen reminisced.

The two met when a friend, Roy Alvarez, approached Karen and told her that his friend liked her. Karen answered, “so do my three boyfriends,” thinking that she was being toyed with while another friend, Frank Westcott, tried to push the two together. However, later in the year James would announce that he was moving to New Jersey, throwing a rock between the two.

“I had told Karen that I was moving to New Jersey and she told me she had a crush on me,” recalled Mr. Curzio.

“I said I didn’t like regrets…” Karen explained on her decision to tell him this. “He turned around and said he had a crush on me.”

Although they dated for a while, distance eventually took its toll and the two split. After another relationship, Karen reconnected with James through a Christmas card and the two saw each other again at a THHS alumni gathering.

The rest, they say, is history.

James and Karen in 1986
James and Karen in 1986

Dating in high school sure isn’t easy, with looming parents and the uncertainty of the future. Even for the Curzios, it wasn’t smooth sailing.

Karen cited herself as their biggest obstacle, saying “I was never sure (at least at first) if he really liked me that much because of how shy James was.”

The two high school sweethearts now have three children, ages 8, 10, and 12, who also hope to follow in the footsteps of their parents.

The chances of getting married to a high school sweetheart are slim, but this Valentine’s Day, teen couples should keep in mind that with enough love and commitment, their relationship could last for years to come.

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