How did you meet? Lad smitten from get-go in produce aisle

Dee and Denny Graves

Like a lot of teenage boys, Denny Graves didn’t always listen to his mom.

But there’s definitely one time he’s glad he did.

In 1956, his mom worked part-time at a Safeway grocery store at 19th and Vinton Streets in Omaha.

She kept telling Denny, who was 15 at the time, about this classy mother-daughter pair who shopped at the store.

Mom and daughter were both pretty, and always dressed sharp, even wearing high heels as they walked through the store’s aisles.

One Saturday morning, Denny’s mom called from the store, telling him again he should come and take a peek at this mom and daughter.

Denny finally decided he’d stop by and take a look.

He walked up to his mom at her cash register, and she told him the mom and daughter were in the produce section.

Denny walked over to that aisle. His mom was right. Both were pretty.

He had never seen the girl before, and noticed she was about his age and wore a ponytail in a flowered band that matched her outfit.

She was cute, and Denny was smitten.

He found out a few days later the identities of the mystery mom and daughter: Grace Piccolo and her 15-year-old daughter, Nadine, who went by Dee.

Grace’s husband, Anthony Piccolo Sr., owned Piccolo Pete’s Restaurant, an Italian steak house still serving customers near 20th and Martha Streets.

Denny also learned that Grace Piccolo hosted and chaperoned teenage dance parties at the restaurant on Sunday afternoons.

A week or so later, Denny walked into the restaurant with a few buddies for the party.

He spotted Dee, who was with a group of girls dancing to Elvis and other music under the restaurant’s crystal ball.

He got up enough courage and asked her to dance.

Dee thought Denny, with his thick dark hair, was good-looking.

The first time they went out was on a double date. But Denny was with another girl, and Dee was with another guy. Dee and Denny spent the whole evening checking each other out.

A few months later they started dating and soon began going steady.

Both were sophomores. Denny attended Omaha South High and Dee went to Mercy High.

They danced at sock-hops and proms. They played miniature golf and went to movies.

Denny spent a lot of time with Dee’s family. He was a mix of Czech and German, so he had grown up eating meat and potatoes.

Dinners with Dee’s family meant mostaccioli with meat sauce and Italian bread.

After graduating in 1959, Denny attended Omaha University, now the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He also joined the Air Force ROTC.

Dee took a job at Mutual of Omaha.

In 1962, before Denny’s senior year of college, they married at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Omaha.

Denny was commissioned as an Air Force officer after graduating from college with a business degree.

Denny and Dee traveled with the Air Force for assignments in such places as Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Texas. They had two children, and now have two grandchildren.

Dee and Denny returned to Omaha in 1981 when he was assigned to Offutt Air Force Base. He retired as a colonel in 1989, took a job at Mutual of Omaha and retired from there about four years ago.

Dee worked at her family’s restaurant over the years. She and her sister took it over in 1999 and still run it.

Last year she and Denny celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Dee figures Denny’s mom, tapping her mother’s intuition, knew they needed to meet, and wouldn’t give up until they did.

“I’m glad she talked him into it,’’ she said.

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