Tasia and George Smellie are comfortable around each other.
It’s evident in the way they interact, finish each other’s sentences and always have a ready and easy smile for the other.
They live in a two-bedroom apartment at the Walden Village Retirement Residence in Kanata Lakes, a spot they chose to be close to their family and for the community feel; something important to both of them.
Now in their 60th year of marriage, they’ve seen highs and lows, faced the tragedy of losing a son and the delight of welcoming a granddaughter.
It’s also evident that after six decades, the two still deeply love each other.
“Everybody has hurdles, everybody has problems,” said George. “We did, but we also had each other. We had our love.
“We’ve been lucky in so many ways.”
The two met for the first time in Flin Flon, Man., while Tasia was attending high school and George worked during his summer break from a college in Winnipeg.
They belonged to a youth group that would gather by a lake and sing, and attend dances over the course of the summer.
“It was a fairly large group,” said George, now 83. “Our first personal contact was at one of those dances … everyone grabbed their girls to get up and dance and I found this lady.”
As the summer came to a close, “school started and we went our separate ways,” said Tasia, 81.
The two reconnected the following summer but didn’t start dating until George was working in Winnipeg and Tasia was attending the University of Manitoba. After graduating, Tasia moved to Regina, working for the Red Cross while George lived around 250 kilometres away in Swift Current, Sask., working in retail merchandising.
“Any time we had a blood clinic in Swift Current they let me have it,” said Tasia.
“The inevitable resulted,” said George. “We were destined.”
The two were married in 1953 and were then living in Carman, Man. in a flat above the retail store where George worked.
“I was a city slicker moving into a small town,” said Tasia about the move. “We decided if our marriage could survive Carman, we could survive anything. And we did.”
The couple welcomed the birth of four sons: Sandy, who passed away at age 20 from cancer, Tom and Ian, who both live in Ottawa, and Michael who lives and works in Houston, Texas.
Over the course of their marriage, the Smellies have lived in numerous places and worked various jobs but always put family first.
“Marriage introduced her to family,” said George of his wife, who was born in the Ukraine.
“We haven’t missed any Christmases as a family,” said Tasia, adding when Michael couldn’t come home to Canada, the family would meet in New York for the holidays.
Something the two share is a love of music. Both have belonged to choruses and quartets, performing on stage together multiple times.
“We still both sing,” said Tasia, a founder of Winnipeg Chorus Sisters of the Holy Rock, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. The group has raised more than $3 million for charities. “Music just keeps on keeping us together.”
Although the two aren’t making any plans for Valentine’s Day, they both love to get in the spirit of Halloween. Last year, Tasia made a “Bag Lady” costume out of milk bags, and George dressed up in ratty fabrics.
“We made a lovely pair,” said Tasia. “We’ve done some foolish things.”
When asked what kind of advice they would offer to other couples, “The rule of thumb is positive thinking,” said George.
“There’s one word that sums up our lives and that’s lucky.”