In 2002, Jennifer Smith had four children to raise, a full-time job as an Eastham firefighter, and a slew of volunteer responsibilities. There were Fresh Air Fund children to host and anti-war rallies to attend, not to mention Democratic town committee commitments.
Her spare time for romance was less than none. But Smith couldn’t deny her feelings when she first met the suspender-and-bowtie-clad attorney Terence Noonan.
“From the first time I met him, with his suspenders on,” she said, “I have never had anyone leave an impression like that.”
They were both campaigning in Cambridge, and first met at the headquarters of Robert Reich, who was running for governor of Massachusetts. (Mitt Romney won.)
Noonan said he couldn’t help but notice Smith in her straw hat and overalls. “She looked great,” he said.
Though he was living in the Boston suburbs, raising his two-year-old daughter and working as a labor and employment attorney with his mother at the firm Noonan & Noonan, he kept finding himself driving out to Eastham to work on Democratic issues.
“I kept wondering why he cared so much about Eastham,” Smith said.
“Being with Jenny is like jumping into a full-blown Cuisinart,” Noonan said. “I was enamored immediately. But there was so much going on, with innumerable kids, more kids, and all the causes. It took me a few months to realize that I was swept up in all those things and with Jenny.”
For most of their relationship, they have lived apart. Smith’s kids were ages 7 to 15 in 2002. They both had jobs that kept them on opposite sides of Cape Cod Bay. So, they would meet at the canal for an hour, or at events related to the Yarmouth Democratic Town Committee.
When Smith retired after 30 years at the Eastham Fire Dept., she cared for her father, Sherrill Smith of Orleans, who had Alzheimer’s disease until his death in 2014. And then, Smith and Noonan founded their own nonprofit, Community Health Partnership, in Honduras, which offers medical and dental services in some of the remotest parts of the country. It is where Smith, 64, still spends several months of the year. Noonan, 54, is now employed by the state as a public defender, while continuing pro bono work with juvenile offenders and activists such as Veterans for Peace.
For these two community-oriented lovebirds, the pandemic has been a romantic getaway in “our wonderful tiny house in Dennis,” Smith said.
Despite their busy schedules, they still found a time to get married. Four times, in fact. First, at Boston City Hall. Then again when one of Smith’s friends, whom she had met through the organization Couchsurfing, which allows travelers to crash at each other’s homes, asked them to get married — this time ceremonially — with her and her fiancé in Las Vegas. It was so much fun (they stayed up until dawn) that they renewed their vows again in New Orleans. That evening ended with splashing through the hotel fountain. The couple also had a wedding bash in regular old Orleans.
The good times have been peppered with serious efforts to battle immigration crises. Smith was in Lesbos, Greece in 2015, helping those escaping war-torn Syria and Afghanistan on flimsy overcrowded rafts. And Noonan has represented immigrants facing deportation in the U.S.
Do their shared ideals and interests make them a better couple?
“Common interests and activism are part of it,” said Smith. “But Terence is the most thoughtful, the kindest, and most wonderful man I’ve ever known.”
Smith said it’s important to ask if a life partner “amplifies you and makes you a better person.”
For Noonan, the answer is simple: “They say you’re judged by the people you’re in the room with, and if I had to be judged, I’d want to be in the room with Jenny.”