A blind date brought Alex and Mildred Smith together in 1942, but it is love that has kept them together ever since.
On Saturday, they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with friends and family.
The secret to their success, according to Alex, is simple: “true love” and the willingness to work through problems.
Life has been an adventure for the Smiths, who lived in east Maple Ridge for decades before settling in the Comox Valley in 2008 to be close to family.
They live independently and plan to stay that way for as long as possible; Alex, 95, is now focused on making it to his 100th birthday and the couple was looking forward to celebrating the milestone anniversary with friends and family.
“The later years in life are just as full as when we were young, only with a different kind of love,” said Mildred.
In 1942, Mildred and Alex were both living and working in the Fraser Valley. They had never met, but they came from similar circumstances – Albertan farms – and they had both come to B.C. without their parents.
Each was asked to accompany a friend on a date to make the event into a double date. They each agreed, and met when they were introduced by their mutual friends; Alex liked what he saw, but Mildred wasn’t so sure – at first.
“I guess about two days later I asked if she wanted to go out again,” said Alex.
Mildred replied, “I don’t really know – then I got to thinking that he’s not really that bad.”
She decided to go on another date with Alex, he managed to make a better impression, and soon the two were discussing marriage. However, because of Mildred’s age – she was 19, he was 25 – the couple needed written permission from her father in order to marry.
They immediately sent him a request and waited for the reply.
“I thought he’d never send that letter,” Alex said. “I waited and waited and waited.”
The letter finally arrived on the day of the wedding, May 26, 1942, only hours before the ceremony was set to begin.
The two were married by a preacher in the Fraser Valley. Since both sets of parents were in Alberta, Alex’s brother and his wife were both the witnesses and only guests at the ceremony. Mildred didn’t have a wedding gown so she wore one of her best dresses.
Following the marriage, the newlyweds went on a honeymoon to Victoria.
“I was working for a shingle mill,” said Alex. “[The boss] said I could have the weekend - we stayed for a week and I nearly got fired.”
For the first five years of their marriage, Alex and Mildred lived in a two-room shack in Ruskin, while they built a larger home on the property. There they had three daughters before moving in to their new home, where they lived until 1972.
During that time, Alex continued to work in the mill and shingle industry, while Mildred took employment at a nearby women’s prison.
Though she wasn’t enthusiastic about the prospect of working for the jail at first, Mildred agreed to go for lunch at the facility after they knocked on her door and offered her a job.
“They served me like I was a queen. I felt really welcome. I thought, I could stand this, it’s like home,” said Mildred, who wound up working for the prison for 15 years. There she became a tailoring instructor, teaching the inmates to use sewing machines and producing thousands of uniforms for B.C. jail workers.
The job was sometimes trying, said Mildred, but she enjoyed working with the women inmates, many of whom turned out to be quite likeable.
“They were very nice girls,” she said. Alex worked in the mills and the shake and shingle industry for much of his life, though he tried his hand at caring for dairy cows for a time. He eventually returned to the mills, but retired after years’ worth of breathing in sawdust damaged his lungs.
In the 1970s the couple moved to Mission, and later they lived in Kelowna before moving to the Island. They traveled extensively, spent months each year in Arizona and spent plenty of time with friends and family.
And while life has been full of ups and downs, the Smiths believe that their ability to talk through problems has lead to their long and happy marriage.
“You have your little spats - disagreements - but that’s life. You can pretty much settle all misunderstandings when you really talk things over.”
“We always talked it over, got things straightened out, and just kept going,” agreed Mildred.
Though recently the two have been experiencing health problems, they continue to look to the future with hope.
“We have had an interesting life. I think I’ll see 100,” said Alex. “We’ve had a lot of fun.”
This past Christmas, they were both in St. Joseph’s General Hospital. The staff put them in the same room so that they could spend the holiday, if not at home, at least together.
“That was so kind of them,” said Mildred.