Real Life

I finally found my classroom sweetheart!

She was the shy, brainy girl at the back of the class, while he was the cheeky older boy who had to sit near the front so the teacher could keep an eye on him.

But every day, Claire Kay would cast looks at Graeme Stanley, never able to reveal how she felt about him when they both went to Wharenui Primary School in Christchurch in 1952. And Graeme, two years older than Claire, was too busy getting up to mischief with his mates to pay her much attention.

Eventually they left the school and went their separate ways, until they were reunited a year ago by technology they would never have dreamed possible back in their younger days.

They each joined a social networking website for mature New Zealanders, www.grownups.co.nz, and through that the pair found each other.

“She recognised my name, and she said straightaway that we went to primary school together,” says Graeme (72).

“The embarrassing thing was that I didn’t remember her. She was a good girl who sat in the back of the class and I was always in the front of class so the teachers could make sure I was behaving myself.”

Although Graeme didn’t remember Claire (70), she certainly recalled the boisterous young boy she had admired from afar. “I was very quiet. I came from a family of all girls, and boys were those horrible smelly things that were loud and noisy and got into trouble,” says Claire.

“I just remember him being there and, at first, thinking he was a horrible boy, along with all the other boys. But I must admit, my opinion changed as I got older. When I reminded him that we were in the same class, he said, ‘Who are you?’ And when I told him, he still didn’t remember me.”

Claire laughs at the memory, adding, “I thought it was very tactless. He didn’t even have enough sense to lie.”When they finally met, almost six decades after they had sat in the same classroom, it was love at first sight for both of them.

“We did agree to take it slowly, but it didn’t work out like that. We were too excited that we had found each other again,” says Graeme.

Both had nursed their partners through ill health and were finally ready to take on a new relationship. “It felt wonderful,” smiles Claire. “With a new relationship, there’s always this getting-to-know-each-other period. But with us there wasn’t any strangeness. It was as if we had always been friends.”

The pair started dating straightaway and got engaged after feeling the earth move – literally. Graeme proposed to Claire after last September’s earthquake in Christchurch, where they both live.

“That was the big decider for us,” Graeme says. “We realised we didn’t want to be apart again, and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.”

They married two months ago in the courtyard rose garden of their retirement village, watched on by family and friends, including some other members of the online group.

The couple also have a combined total of five children and 11 grandchildren, who were present to see the senior sweethearts get married.

“I was on cloud nine to be marrying the love of my life,” says Graeme.

As they prepare to spend the rest of their twilight years together, Claire says she is thrilled that the cheeky boy she noticed all those years ago is the man she eventually fell in love with and married.

“We’re over the moon with everything. We found each other and life couldn’t be better,” she says.

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