JOHNSBURG Im a hamburger enthusiast in meals, art, books and kitschy plastic whosiewhatists. Sadly, this passion hasnt helped me in the love department. One date haughtily insisted I have the duck, not what he considered the lowly burger. Disappointed boyfriends pleaded for fare outside the burger-pizza-hot dog milieu. Even my new husband tires of my devotion. Yet not all couples share my experience. One lucky Johnsburg couple found culinary kismet in their mutual love for a burger with cheese cooked right into the middle of the patty. Their magnetic attraction while sharing this gastronomic delight at Ruths Tea Room in Winchester, Virginia changed Frank and Denise Contis lives forever. On this first date, Frank, a Buffalo-born city boy, found Denise Barrick beautiful and possessed of a quiet dignity. A country girl raised on a Virginian horse farm, Denise loved Franks sense of humor and devotion to his family. She already knew she liked his looks having set her sights on him a year before in Paris. It was Bastille Day 1967 when the All Student Band, Chorus and Orchestra U.S.A. watched fireworks explode over the Eiffel Tower, Denise spotted a very handsome guy in front of her. Although usually shy, she boldly announced to her friend Sandra, Im going to date him someday! That him turned out to be Frank Conti. In the fall, when Denise started her freshman year at Virginias Shenandoah Conservatory of Music, she was shocked to spy Frank walking around campus. Coincidentally he was a senior at the very same school! Denise discovered he played saxophone in a jazz club called the Peanut Cellar, so she went to watch Frank play and developed a major crush. After graduation Frank was drafted and stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia with the 75th Army band. On a trip back to school visiting friends, he saw Denise walk up the breezeway and was so completely wowed that he asked her out on the spot. As much as she wanted to go, Denise explained, I cant tonight because I have plans. Frank said, Well, break em! She countered, Im not busy tomorrow night! After that first date, despite 70 miles separating them, they visited each other at every opportunity. When Franks gig ended at 1 a.m. in the Officers Club, hed drive to the conservatory to see her. Denise exclaims, I just lived for those Friday nights I couldnt wait! Denise was in awe of Franks talent and admired his love for family. He respected her southern charm, intelligence and passion for music. On June 12, 1971 they were married at Wakemans Grove Church of the Brethren in Woodstock, Virginia, Denises family church. Although only punch and cake were served, a home reception allowed Franks family and friends to toast to the new couple with champagne. While both pursuing graduate degrees at NY State University at Fredonia, they lived upstairs from his parents in Buffalo. Frank describes scenes such as Denise sampling her first dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, a Conti staple, as like that show All in the Family. On a campus job board, they spotted two job openings at Johnsburg Central School - Band Director and Chorus Director. Frank exclaims, Holy Cow! We had to look on a map to see where it was. Interviewing in April 1972, they stayed at the Alpine Motel in North Creek. They fell in love with the Adirondacks and moved into a duplex next door to Basil & Wicks, where Franks band played classic rock on weekends. Denise overhearing a patron saying, Looks like a bunch of hippies are teaching our kids! prompted the couple to cut their hair and toss their headbands. In 1976 they welcomed daughter Christina and in 1979 Laura Lee made the Contis four. The couple briefly moved to Virginia in 1984, but after realizing how much they missed the North Country, moved back into their same house and were able to get their beloved jobs back. Frank retired in 2002 and Denise in 2004. Currently they look after their three-year old twin grandchildren. Frank beams, Weve had success, good health and great memories now we want to watch our family grow. Denise adds, Living in this beautiful place has grounded us and given us so much peace. We appreciate the woods, the people and the un-stressful life we have here. Frank performs at Wallabees Jazz Bar in Glens Falls, weddings and parties. Denise sings with Adirondack Voices, a choral group in Glens Falls, directs the Millennium Chorale and is Choir Director at the St. James Church. And they both put on shows for the Adirondack Tri-County Nursing Home. Moved by their soulful romance of 36 years, I request any tips they can offer. Dont keep things inside talking is so important. Denise suggests while Frank advises, Be respectful of the other person and dont try to change them! Hmmmacceptance, eh? A yet-to-be-tried arrow in my relationship quiver! Perhaps I cant expect a man to wax rhapsodically about burgers or find my Angus-centric obsession endearing, but by respecting one anothers opinions, tastes and identity we may have a decent shot at harmony. That just might be the kind of happiness we all dream of having in this madcap adventure called life.