'We are still in love'
PHILIP and Elizabeth O'Reggio are the epitome of long and lasting love. After 50 years of marriage and growing together, the couple insists that they are "still in love".
The O'Reggios celebrated their 50th year of marriage on August 18, with a vow that they are fit and ready to go another half a century together.
"We are still in love," Philip said with a wide smile, as he hugged his wife to his side in their Millsborough, St Andrew home.
The two said respect, love and commitment to their vows are what kept them together for 50 years, even though, like other couples, they have had their challenges.
"I just meet the challenges head on," Philip said. "It might annoy some people but I don't believe in putting things off. I believe in dealing with things head-on."
"Trust in prayer and my faith in God has helped me through challenging times," his wife added.
The couple said they ensured that they had fun together over the years by going to parties, movies and plays. They would also visit various music festivals, in particular jazz festivals, since they are both jazz lovers.
"I met Elizabeth 1958 at an Easter dance in Wolverhampton, England," Philip recalled, after explaining that while they were Jamaican born, hailing from two different parishes — Hanover and St Thomas — they both migrated at the ages of 16 and 17.
"It was at an Easter dance. And I saw this beautiful lady sitting down all by herself. So being a young man who loved females I had to go and ask for a dance. And that was it," Philip explained.
"Initially I said no," Elizabeth chipped in. "But persistent as he was he came back and I said yes then."
Despite going their separate ways after the dance, they explained that they kept in touch via letters.
"At the time I was in the Royal Air Force, so I went back to my camp in Hertfordshire and we kept in tough through letters," Philip said. "We would meet up some weekends, about twice per month."
Two years after their first encounter, the couple got engaged, and Philip went off to western Germany where he spent three years.
But in 1962 he came back to marry Elizabeth and they returned to Germany together.
There their first child Deborah was born.
After a year of living there, the couple left Germany for northern Wales, since Philip was now posted at the Royal Air Force Valley there. They lived there for three years and there, their second child Paul was born.
Being a trained nurse, Elizabeth worked at the Gors Hospital in Holyhead while in northern Wales, while Philip, who had his higher national certificate in engineering, left the Royal Airforce in 1966 to take up a post at Hawker Siddeley working on the HS125 executive jet.
From there he was employed by the post office engineering department in Wolverhampton.
"Not being able to take the cold weather and the dull, bleaky climate, I decided to head for the sunshine of Jamaica in 1968," Philip said. It's a decision he will never regret making.
Philip came to Jamaica in April of that year, but his wife had to stay behind with her parents for another six months while her husband sorted things out to properly accommodate the couple and their two young children.
While living in Jamaica the couple had their third child, Nicole.
Philip worked at the National Water Authority (now National Water Commission), where he occupied various positions including senior management posts. After leaving there, he was invited to join the National Irrigation Commission on contract, where he still remains today after 14 years.
Soon after her arrival, Elizabeth worked as a matron at the Medical Associates Hospital and was in 2005 awarded the badge of honour for meritorious service in the nursing field.
The O'Reggios said they try to pass on their values to their three children — to respect others, never look down on anyone, do the right things at all times, and to be honest to themselves.
Not only do they have values that they pass on to their children, but also strong advice for married couples.
"I would tell them to remember their vows. They should be taken seriously," Elizabeth said. "Also remember why you got married in the first place. Trust God, and try not to go to bed angry."
"And learn to forgive," Philip added.
When asked if it was hard to remain faithful to each other, a laughing Philip admitted that it was indeed hard since "Jamaican girls are so beautiful."
His wife laughed in return, while she noted that it was not so hard since she was kept busy caring for her children and working long hours at the hospital. In fact, she said while working at the hospital, she was propositioned by doctors, patients and visitors, but simply reminded them of her marital status.