THEIR children describe them as one of the most united couples they have ever met. Luddy and Myrtle Smith got married on June 23, 1962 — just a short while prior to Jamaica gaining Independence. Like this country, they share a long history which began at their birthplace in St Mary. Nine children later, they are still living in love.
Although both were from the same parish, the couple was not officially introduced to each other until 1954 when they relocated to Kingston to work. They were introduced by Myrtle's cousin who worked at the same block factory as Luddy in the Red Hills Road area. Their first interaction could hardly be considered as love at first sight though, according to Myrtle.
"I didn't think of anything with him, because I wasn't looking anybody. I came to town to work, so I didn't pay him any mind, but then he kept on shooting after me," she said.
Luddy eventually wore her down, and after about three months of pursuing her, got the satisfaction of making her his girlfriend. Within just a few months of dating, the couple was expecting their first child. The realisation was frightening for Myrtle, but she was somehow comforted by the fact that Luddy promised to be there for her and their baby.
"I had the baby and another baby after that, and more babies after that," recounted Myrtle, now 79.
It wasn't until after their fifth child that Luddy, 83, decided to make a formal lifelong commitment to her.
"When I find say I was going to have the sixth one, I said 'I am not going down to the hospital unless I become the Mrs'," Myrtle shared with a chuckle as her husband hugged her to his side on the verandah of their home in Waterford, St Catherine this past Emancipation Day.
Their wedding was very small, and paled in comparison to the mass celebrations which were to come in August when Jamaica gained Independence.
"We didn't have anything to marry, no money, no nothing," said Myrtle who got married in a one-bedroom house with the minister and her brother and sister-in-law as their witnesses. Her father bought the wedding ring for her and her mother the cake.
Following their nuptials, having a safe pregnancy became the priority for both, so much so that they spent Independence Day at home with their five children instead of enjoying the mass celebrations that were taking place across the country in that year. They had their baby in November of that year and another three later to round out their family.
Even though they did not engage in the Independence Day celebrations, they both agree that it was the best thing for Jamaica.
"I hear people say we don't achieve nothing and I would not say that. I would say we achieved a lot. From where I am coming from, I have achieved a lot," said Myrtle.
The couple's daughter, Octavia 'Juliet' Waite, said they were never made to want for anything as children, because their parents made provisions for them, although the family is large.
"My parents were always there for their entire family," said Waite, who is a teacher. "You can rely on them to assist you whenever you need it."
Another thing she appreciated about her parents in particular and her family in general, is the fact that they celebrate every achievement whether big or small. So every birthday, academic success and anniversary is marked by a celebratory party. In fact, she and all her siblings organised one of the biggest events to date when they hosted a surprise 50th anniversary celebration for their parents in June of this year. The event took the format of a second wedding ceremony for their parents who were able to enjoy all the trappings of a modern day wedding, the type they missed out on 50 years ago.