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A stone’s throw

Cape couple, the Smyths, celebrate 75th wedding anniversary

By JANA MACKIN - | Aug 24, 2021

Bill and Eileen Smyth, now. JANA MACKIN

Back when Tommy Dorsey’s “There Are Such Things” topped the charts, an Ohio teenager tossed a few small rocks to get the attention of a pretty girl. Unbeknownst to them, they were only a stone’s throw away from finding the love of their life.

Now fast forward lifetimes: On Aug. 16, Cape Coral residents Eileen, 92, and Bill Smyth, 93, celebrated their 75th anniversary awakening to bouquets of as many balloons on their front yard courtesy of family members and friends to honor that chance meeting years ago that has weathered the onslaught of time and age. A mutual love has buoyed their marriage with lives lived with “honesty and kindness and respect,” the couple said.

However, they add:

“Old age ain’t for sissies!”

Recently, the couple took a trip down memory lane from an overstuffed couch flanked by twin daughters, Jill Books and Jann Kohlhepp; Jordyn Books, a granddaughter; and their dog, Holly. On the tables and walls were photos of several anniversaries past capturing their life stages from young love to parents to seniors who, thanks to their daughters, can still live in their home.

Bill and Eileen Smyth, then. PHOTO PROVIDED

“They were the smartest and most giving people I ever knew,” said Jill, 69. “We were poor but we didn’t know it.”

One summer day 77 years ago — time has erased the date — Eileen, and her friend, Betty Coventry, were strolling through the bottom of the Gorge metro park in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. The gorge’s high rock walls loomed above the flat bottom path where they walked. As they walked, they noticed someone was tossing stones from above to get their attention. They looked up and saw the perpetrators: Bill and his buddy, Harvey Moulton. Long story short, they ended up meeting and Bill walked her home. Bill played football for North High School. Eileen loved horseback riding and was from Cuyahoga Falls High School. They were 15 years old.

“He was high up,” Eileen said. “I was down low. He must have got my attention. They must have come down. We ended up talking.”

“I liked Bill better than Harvey because he was taller,” she said.

“I was attracted to her by her strange getup,” Bill said about her jodhpurs for horseback riding.

When Bill walked Eileen home, her mom asked about Bill’s last name.

Eileen didn’t know, so she made up a name — Smith.

As fate would have it, she was correct, although she missed the spelling.

“Smith, but with a Y,” Eileen said.

After dating for a couple years, the pair decided to elope two days after Bill turned 18. Eileen was 17 and the pair couldn’t marry in Ohio due to age. With the help of Eileen’s older sister, Jeanne, the pair skipped over the state line to West Virginia where they married on Aug. 16, 1946.

“It was some little town in West Virginia. I can’t remember the name,” Bill said. “We went to a Methodist minister and all we needed was a marriage certificate. We were married in the minister’s office.”

“We lived at my father-in-law’s home for awhile,” Bill said. “I didn’t have any money and her family wouldn’t lend her any.”

In high school, Bill worked as a baker and furniture delivery man for a couple years. He then began learning the plumbing trade and spent 45 years working as a journeyman plumber and pipefitter. While living in Akron, Eileen worked at Goodyear Tires for 10 years. She also sang with the Goodyear choir. The pair’s children are David, born in 1950; the twins, Jann and Jill, 1951, and Sharon, 1957.

In 1960, the family moved to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where Bill worked for Johnson Controls. The pair were “hands-on parents constantly going to baseball games, swim meets, chorus performances and school activities” the daughters said.

For several years, Bill played slow pitch softball later playing in senior leagues in Cape Coral. Eileen directed the Methodist youth choir and the Eau Claire 4-H singing ensembles. She also worked as a school secretary after the children were raised.

In 1983, the pair moved to Cape Coral where Bill worked at Franzese Plumbing and Eileen worked as a principal’s secretary at Edgewood and then J. Colin English elementary schools. They have been retired for about 20 years.

Bill and Eileen are fortunate to have most of their family nearby except David, a Marine veteran, who died several years ago, and daughter, Sharon, who still lives in Wisconsin. They also have six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson.

So do Bill and Eileen have any advice for a successful long marriage?

“Make sure the guy you are dating likes you more than you like him,” Eileen said.

“A happy wife is a happy life,” Bill said.