It was on the corner of Grove Avenue and Carmen Street in Patchogue where Lillian Mannino and Nick Depaolo — 15 years old at the time — first saw each other. And it was love at first sight.
“She put a spell on me that never broke,” Nick Depaolo said.
That was 1962. The two both graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School and Nick left for college in Albany. Lillian soon joined him and the two married. And since then, they’ve had an exciting life together.
Nick worked his way through school by clamming on the Great South Bay. After graduation, he saved up enough money he made from clamming for the couple to spend six months hitchhiking through Europe and North Africa, eventually working in Germany for a few months. They decided to return to Long Island and bought a small home in Brookhaven hamlet, where they’ve lived for 40 years. Nick returned to clamming and Lillian joined him for several years on the boat. It was an everyday, year-round labor that was hard work.
Lillian’s longtime interest in natural foods and natural healing led to her owning one of the first health food stores on Long Island called It’s Only Natural, on Main Street in Bellport Village. Nick eventually joined her, and the two worked together as a “mom and pop” operation for decades.
In their personal lives, the two found yoga as a healing practice and made it an integral part of their lives. They took a training course for two years — traveling to Cambridge, Mass., every weekend to earn the ability to teach. They’ve been teaching together since the early 1990s, and have become most well known for their class at the South Country Library.
And just as they spent years as a team working at their store, the couple’s joint teaching method draws on that experience and is reflective of their deeper relationship. They’ve spent their lives getting to know one another on a deep level. In their classes students have two examples of the postures being performed, one by Lillian, who Nick says is a “natural” practitioner, and one by Nick, who has a tighter, less flexible body. This, they think, is a benefit for the student.
“We never run out of things to talk about,” Lillian said. “We never get tired of being together.”
The Depaolos sold their store to its current owners five years ago and began to simplify their lives. The journey of yoga has been instrumental in supporting them through the inevitable obstacles that one encounters in life. Yoga had become a prominent piece in their lives and their priorities moved to spending their time differently.
Their success as a married couple, they said, comes from a deep understanding of the qualities of love, friendliness, compassion and selflessness — and the ability to put the other’s needs above your own.