He had snatched her hat as he ran past and hurled it over the convent fence, planting it firmly in the nun’s garden. She risked a week of detention to salvage her school hat and as she tramped back to her friends, planting the hat firmly on her red hair she asked “Who is that horrible boy?”
Her opinion didn’t change for some time, despite the urging of her friend Mary, that horrible boy’s sister. He tried to coax her to the cinema but she went with friends. He offered her a lift home but she preferred to walk.
He was a patient man, he could wait.
On weekend leave from the Army he arrived at the local football game in his father’s jeep. She spied this young man in uniform, his blonde curly hair sticking out from under his hat. That horrible boy was starting to look appealing.
He asked to take her home. She hesitated, still.
“Sing me Temptation or I will you take you home” he commanded of her. Their fate was sealed as she climbed into the jeep and a journey of many decades began.
“Tell the little red head she can write to me” he told his sister as he returned to service, with little certainty this would happen. When a letter did arrive several weeks later, simply signed “from your ardent admirer” he did not believe this could be the one he had hoped for. It took several more letters to convince him.
It was a filibuster romance – she nursing in Newcastle, he completing service in the Army. He surprised her with visits, sweet talking the matron into allowing her out unescorted with a soldier. For three years or more they saw each other only occasionally. Each time the attraction grew. They became friends before lovers.
He was a patient man, he could wait.
Until neither could not wait any longer. The approvals were given – Clem agreed to the union and Ellie busied herself with the planning of her daughter’s wedding.
On April 7th 1958 that horrible boy married his red-head. It was Easter Monday, 8 am.
She met him at the altar in a Lilly of the Valley silk and Chantilly lace gown that she had designed herself, her cousins Judith and Rosalie by her side. He only had eyes for her as he waited, bolstered by his brother Pat and brother-in-law Bill.
The autumn sun glistened in the early morning, weaving its magical spell as two became one. Their hands joined to walk together as best friends for the next sixty years.
The wedding was celebrated with a reception in the Town Hall before they borrowed his father’s ute to honeymoon in Port Macquarie. After a few short days of surfing in the ocean waves – which they were never to do again – they settled into wedded life with his parents at Laurella.
60 years later their hands are still joined, their eyes still yearn for each other, their love still unwavering.
Sixty years. Six decades. 720 months. 21 900 days.
A lifetime. Together. Best friends.
They have rejoiced at the birth of their nine children, though life would have been chaotic with 5 under five and only a ute as the family car.
They have celebrated the birth of 25 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren (so far!).
Together they have had the joy of purchasing a new home and filling it with love and laughter til it burst at the seams. The door has always been open to their own children and many others that sought the comfort of the loving family surrounds provided by Neville and Anne.
They have shared the happiness of watching their youngest graduate from university, the first for the family.
They support each other in times of sadness, accidents and illness. They share the news side by side, they grieve arm in arm, they journey through the tough united. Their faith the staple rock of support.
Strength, they say comes from communication and talking to each other. Their only advice is to take the time to be best friends and enjoy the same things.
For 60 years each morning is a new day – disagreements are left with the setting sun. They wake hand in hand as those morning sunbeams of their wedding day still weave the magic of love around them. Unconquerable and enduring.
Congratulations Neville and Anne. Diamonds is most fitting for you both.