By David Stevens
Quick: When is your parents’ wedding anniversary?
What year were they married?
What will you do to commemorate their 100th anniversary, even if it’s 74 years after death did them part?
If you don’t know, you are not Maydelle Smith Meier.
Meier, 86, reports her parents — Ben Peck Smith and Deborah Nevius Smith — were married June 23, 1914, in Cordell, Oklahoma.
She’s arranged to have a flower bouquet, complete with the 23rd Psalm and a “happy anniversary” banner, delivered to her mother’s gravesite in the Portales cemetery on Monday. Meier, who lives in Albuquerque, can’t be there, and her father is buried with family in Foss, Oklahoma, but Deborah has plenty of family and friends still in eastern New Mexico who can help remember.
Ben and Deborah met as school teachers in Moorewood, Oklahoma. They were married 26 years when Ben, who managed the Mobil Oil warehouse in Portales, suffered a heart attack and died in 1940. The family, which included their only daughter, had been in town just a few months,
“Mother was asked why we didn’t move back to Oklahoma and she said, ‘Ben loved living in Portales, so we’ll stay here,’” Meier recalled. Deborah stayed until 1990; that’s when she fell and broke her arm and moved to Albuquerque to live with her daughter.
Deborah was 104 when she died on March 8, 1993.
Meier said she’s always been able to remember her parents’ wedding anniversary, though she’s not clear why. She has a photo of her parents outside the courthouse in Cordell, Oklahoma, minutes after they married. Her father is wearing a straw hat and carrying a parasol, she said. Her mother is wearing her white wedding dress, which Meier has stored away in a trunk. It’s not fancy, she said, but treasured; the material is thin and her mother’s waste was so small.
Maydelle was 12 when her dad passed. “I remember he was fun. He liked to tease me a lot,” she said. He let her go with him when he drove a tanker truck from Portales to Artesia.
Her mother was more “business like,” Meier said. She had bills to pay, especially after Ben’s death.
Deborah taught school 30 years in all, many of them at Portales’ L.L. Brown school, “where she influenced the lives of many third graders,” Meier said.
Meier graduated from Portales schools, including Eastern New Mexico University in 1950.
“Our roots are deep in Portales,” she said, “which is why I wanted to share the pleasure of celebrating this special day with anyone who has memories of Ben or Deborah Smith.”
That would be all of us, now.
David Stevens is editor for the Clovis News Journal and Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at: