Real Life

Bathurst widow: ‘how I found love again’

After tragedy, love struck once more for Adrienne.

When New Zealand racing car driver Mark Porter died following a crash at Bathurst, his broken-hearted widow Adrienne Porter-Rigley never thought she would find love again. Mark’s death, at the age of 32 after a horrific crash during the V8 Supercar race near Sydney in 2006, left Adrienne so devastated that it took years to rebuild her life.

The couple had been childhood sweethearts in Hamilton and had moved from Auckland to the Gold Coast so Mark could pursue his racing dream. Less than two years later, Adrienne was left widowed with their son Flynn, who was just two at the time. “I think I was very numb for the first two to three years. I didn’t sleep. I just wanted to block out pain and I became very hard,” she recalls.

But when dashing vet John Rigley walked into her life two years ago, his kind nature melted her heart. When the couple celebrated their love in an emotional wedding ceremony last month, Adrienne (36), a former bridal designer and magazine editor, decided to celebrate with not just one, but two wedding gowns – a strapless duchess silk gown and another in heavy silk with French lace cap sleeves that she wore in the evening.

“I knew when I met John that he was right,” she says. “And I felt like we had Mark’s blessing from the start. I’m incredibly lucky to have found true love twice in a lifetime.”

One of John’s greatest gifts is his acceptance of the role that Mark has played in Adrienne and Flynn’s lives. Many of their old friends were invited to the ceremony and Mark’s groomsman acted as MC at the reception. “He accepts Mark is always going to be a part of our lives. He never says ‘Your husband’ or ‘Flynn’s dad’ and he is quite comfortable about me talking about him, which is a massive thing for me.

“I still think about Mark every day… every hour of every day. He’s always going to be a huge part of my life and John is such a wonderful human being that he wouldn’t say, ‘Don’t talk about him all the time.’” Adrienne remembers how grief-stricken she was after Mark’s death. “I’m a lot more resilient now, because I don’t think anything could ever hurt me as much – apart from losing somebody again.”

It was Flynn who gave Adrienne the strength to carry on. “I thought I had to move forward. Because you can’t just go around wallowing in your grief forever. You’ve got to be tough. You can’t cry around your kids because you’ve got to protect them from their own emotional trauma.

“The great thing is, Flynnie is so much a chip off the old block. He’s got Mark’s wit and humour and he’s an absolute charmer. And he really has grown up so much since John has been in his life.”

When Mark died, Adrienne never believed she would love another man enough to marry again. “There was part of me that thought there would never be anyone who could get inside my heart again.” But she says it became clear that her son would need a man in his life. “When you have a little child that has something missing from their lives, you know that you have to do something about it.”

After five years, Adrienne finally felt able to commit to another man. “I said to my friends I was ready to meet someone. People would say ‘I don’t know why you go out.’ But what are you supposed to do? Stay home and be depressed?” It was through mutual friends that John (33) came into her life, when the couple met at the horse races. “We hit it off right from the start and talked for hours and hours. But then it took him a couple more months to work up the courage to actually ask me on a date. I must have made him nervous,” she smiles.

The ceremony was held at Customs House in Brisbane, with Flynn walking Adrienne down the aisle. “I know how lucky I am, because John truly is an amazing man. I will never get over Mark, but the beauty is that now I have someone else who loves me just as much. I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

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