Cheers and tears of joy filled the room at Peconic Landing Monday morning when Southold native John Dunne and his fiancée, Katie Anthony, discovered they’d won this year’s Veterans Day Wedding Giveback.
“It’s everything we’ve ever dreamed of,” said Mr. Dunne, a U.S. Navy lieutenant junior grade. “The minute we heard about [the contest] we were hoping and praying we were going to make it and we were going to win.”
The wedding will be held at Brecknock Hall in Greenport this November.
Mr. Dunne — a 25-year-old Navy helicopter pilot stationed in Norfolk, Va. — was under the impression they had to do one final interview with the Peconic Landing committee that judges the contest.
On Monday morning, the couple spoke with the committee via video chat from Norfolk and answered some questions. During the interview, the Peconic Landing staff faked technical difficulties and covered the camera so his parents, Edward and Donna Dunne, and Peconic Landing staff could sneak in with balloons for the surprise. When the camera was uncovered, the surprise on the couple’s faces said it all.
“This is the blessing I’ve been looking for so long,” said Ms. Anthony, 27, who works for the Navy Federal Credit Union. “I needed something to relieve the stress of being away from him.”
Mr. Dunne graduated in 2010 from Southold High School , where he participated in the NJROTC program. He received a four-year scholarship to SUNY Maritime College, where he became battalion commander of the NROTC unit.
He is currently a U.S. Navy MH-60S helicopter pilot and a recipient of the National Defense Service Medal. He plans a career in the military, he said.
Jan Harting-McChesney, a member of the committee that selected the couple, said it was important for her to see that they were devoted to each other and prepared for a military lifestyle.
“We just felt that they were very grounded, very loving, very connected to the community,” she said.
Ms. Harting-McChesney also pointed out that, as he was growing up, Mr. Dunne made his mark on Southold with his contributions.
For example, when Mr. Dunne was an Eagle Scout, he coordinated and implemented restoration of the sand dunes at McCabe’s Beach and planted 4,000 beachgrass plugs.
“This couple represents a lot of the approaches to life that the residents at Peconic Landing value,” she said. “By granting this to Katie and John, we’re saying they represent us as well.”
Mr. Dunne’s parents said he has not been home since he graduated from college in 2014 and it means a lot to them that the wedding will be on the North Fork.
“I was just so excited, I just couldn’t wait to tell them,” Ms. Dunne said, adding that she got the news three days ago and found it hard to keep the secret. Ms. Dunne, a teacher at Oysterponds School, passes Brecknock Hall on her way to work each day and said she’d constantly take photos of the building and send them to her son and Ms. Anthony and say how wonderful it would be for them to win this opportunity.
“I was so happy because they’ve been apart and have so much going on and this is just such a huge, positive thing,” Edward Dunne said. “It’s just fantastic and it’s his hometown and it’s people that he knows.”
Mr. and Ms. Dunne said they are so grateful to Peconic Landing, Brecknock Hall, the committee and everyone else that put this together. The wedding givebacks are able to continue each year thanks to the continued support of local sponsors.
“This is a special event to be a part of. We are honored to help provide John and Katie with their dream day, and wish them a future of happiness together,” said Robert Syron, president and CEO of Peconic Landing.
The couple became engaged Jan. 1 and will tie the knot Sunday, Nov. 12.
“We’re just ecstatic and more in love than we ever were,” Mr. Dunne said. “More and more every day.”
Top photo: Katie Anthony and John Dunne are this year’s winners of Peconic Landing’s Veterans Day Wedding Giveback. Mr. Dunne, originally from Southold, is stationed in Virginia and will return home in November for the wedding at Brecknock Hall in Greenport. (Credit: Courtesy)