‘I was determined not to leave this commitment’
Love, forgiveness and kisses led to couple’s 70th anniversary
Chocolates used to mysteriously appear in the jacket pocket of Major Carmel D’Anastasi when he was a young sergeant based at Fort St Elmo in Valletta in the late 1930s.
He later learnt that the tasty treats were secretly placed there by a young girl who often passed in front of the fort on her way to school.
That young girl, called Mary, became his wife seven decades ago as the couple celebrated their 70th anniversary last Thursday.
“When I used to go out to the nearby shop, wearing my uniform, I’d remove my jacket. When I returned to the fort by 9.30pm I would find a piece of chocolate in my jacket… it took me a while to realise who was doing it,” says Major D’Anastasi who turns 94 on Friday.
Sitting beside him at Villa Messina retirement home in Rabat, his wife recalls how, throughout their marriage, she retained her trademark secret gesture and slipped chocolates in his jackets or drawers.
Ms D’Anastasi, who turned 87 last Tuesday, was only 11 years old when she first saw her darling Danny, as he is known by friends.
As a member of the Royal Malta Artillery he was based on one of the canons of the fort, located across the road from her house. Whenever she passed in front of him, with her school friends, she waved.
“She noticed me first since I had another girlfriend at the time,” he teases, adding that he eventually chose her.
When she was about to turn 17 he plucked up the courage to ask her father for her hand in marriage.
“Her father initially said he did not have any children who were old enough to marry… But I later learnt he got married to her mother when she was 16,” he says.
The couple tied the knot at the old parish church of Santa Venera on January 3, 1943 – two days after her 17th birthday and a few days before he turned 24.
“I know I was barely 17 and my parents did not like the fact I was marrying so young. But nothing gets in the way of love,” Mrs D’Anastasi says.
The young lovebirds did not waste time in starting a family and, that October, Ms D’Anastasi gave birth to the first of five children. Today they have 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Major D’Anastasi continued serving in the army for 37 years and the memories of the early days are still very vivid in his memory.
He proudly wears military badges that included a badge issued by the English Ministry of Defence to all veterans and the RMA badge.
On his left ring finger he wears a “badge” that marks another form of loyalty – one that is mirrored on his wife’s left hand.
“Our relationship was perfect. You need to be prepared and committed… I was determined that, once I entered this commitment, I would not leave. I’m seven years older than her so it’s my job to look after her, and I’m still doing so,” he says affectionately before adding: “And she cooks really well.”
His wife quickly adds: “I love him and never wanted anyone else. I used to be jealous of him but now he proved he will stay with me so I’m not so jealous anymore.”
Like all couples they had their arguments. “But in the evening we kissed each other and forgot whatever happened during the day,” he says, demonstrating the action by planting a kiss on his wife’s cheek.