Samantha Matthews, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’23, is a features editor on The Observer. She is currently majoring in journalism. When she is not writing articles, she can be found wandering around The Met, shopping or enjoying a cookie from Levain Bakery.
Finding a Friend at The Observer, and Marrying Them 13 Years Later
Journalists Joe DeLessio and Natalie Rodriguez DeLessio look back on the moments where they should have known the other was “the one.”
February 12, 2021
Natalie Rodriguez DeLessio, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’06, isn’t quite sure what drew her to sit next to her future husband Joe DeLessio, FCLC ’06, on their first day of classes in the Honors Program in 2002. Nervous about the unfamiliar environment, Natalie found comfort in the fact that she was walking in with a close friend, but when it came time to sit down, she found a new comfort in a new face. “I actually came to the program with one of my best friends that I grew up with, and for some reason, I didn’t sit with her; I wanted to sit with him. Honestly, I should have known then,” Natalie said.
However, despite this subtle spark, it took almost seven years before the two thought of their relationship as anything other than a friendship.
A Love for Journalism
During their time at Fordham, Joe and Natalie grew to be close friends due to their shared passion for journalism and the fact that they were both “Queens kids.” Joe and Natalie both joined The Observer in 2003 as staff writers for the features section. In their junior year, the pair were thrown together as co-features editors at The Observer. They loved the time they spent working together, pitching stories, editing and hanging out in the office. Joe recalled, “We worked really well together, and I think we complemented each other nicely as co-editors.”
Natalie joked, “It’s funny because a lot of The Observer people thought we were dating at the time, and I didn’t find that out until much later.” Both Joe and Natalie admitted that they were always flirting with each other here and there but never expected to be more than friends. Natalie remembers, “He was always one of my best friends. So, I didn’t want to ruin it by dating and then it not working out.”
Natalie refers to Joe as “the guy I would call for big life moments.” When she got accepted to Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she remembers calling Joe immediately without thinking twice — almost like it was automatic. Looking back, she feels as though this was another moment where she should have realized the important role Joe played in her life.
Joe now serves as a social media editor for New York Magazine, and Natalie is an assistant managing editor for Law360. Journalism has always been a “common language” for the pair, and they enjoy the fact that they have a partner who understands the responsibilities that come with the job. Natalie said, “It’s always nice that he gets it. Like, if it’s seven o’clock and there’s breaking news and I have to go deal with it, I don’t have to explain it.”
This connection over journalism is one of the reasons they stayed close after their 2006 graduation. Even though their lives had taken them away from the FCLC campus and each other, they always made an effort to stay close — even if it was just speaking about their work.
“Talking about our stories together, even from when we were on The Observer, has never stopped. I guess it’s just always been our normal,” Natalie said. But it wasn’t until 2013 that they both started to look at each other in a different light.
“We were always a team back then. We’re still a team now, and I don’t think that’s going to change.” Natalie Rodriguez DeLessio, FCLC ’06
Joe asked Natalie out on a date after reconnecting at a wedding, and, to this day, they disagree as to what their first official date was. Looking at her husband, Natalie said, “We argue about this, really. I consider the first date the Yankee game you took me to.” Joe replied, “And I consider it a dinner we had a few weeks prior at a restaurant called the Old Town Bar.”
Despite the difference in their stories, the Old Town Bar became a staple for Joe and Natalie when they were dating, so much so that Joe made it a part of his proposal.
On May 28, 2014, Joe took Natalie out to eat at the Old Town Bar and then suggested they go for a walk to Madison Square Park, something they did quite frequently. Natalie was so unsuspecting of what was going to happen, she almost said no to going on the walk because it was too cold. Luckily, Joe convinced her, and once they made it to the park, Natalie gleefully accepted his proposal.
Together Through It All
Joe and Natalie have now been married for five years and have a family together, but everything in their relationship hasn’t always been easy. In December of 2018, Natalie was diagnosed with cancer. She is now headed toward official remission, but she credits her family, and Joe, as the reason for getting through it.
Joe said that his mom and Natalie’s mom were a big help for them during this time. Natalie revealed, “Joe really stepped up for me, but it was so hard. One of my tumors actually broke my arm bone, so I couldn’t even lift up our son.” The time between Natalie’s diagnosis and the first sign of the cancer being gone was about six or seven months, which doesn’t sound like a long time, but together they both said it felt like “forever.”
They joked that they were really looking forward to 2020 being their year, but the pandemic had other plans. They are both working from home, taking extra safety precautions and trying to make the best of the situation. Recently, they’ve been taking the time to have pizza nights, where they cook together as a family.
From The Observer to marriage, how they approach life and all of its complications is the same — together. Natalie said, “We were always a team back then. We’re still a team now, and I don’t think that’s going to change.”