Real Life

We’ve come a long way, baby!

After 70 years of marriage, Cherry and Jack Wilson are as devoted to each other as the day they met on a farm in Northland.

Still seen walking hand in hand, Cherry (91) and Jack (91) have stuck together through thick and thin for 73 years, surviving the great depression, World War II, and having a chaperone for the first three years of their relationship.

Having just celebrated their 70th anniversary, Cherry and Jack can look back with pride on their long and happy marriage, and their family legacy of three children, seven grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and two great- great grandchildren.

The couple married at The Trust Church at Ruawai in Northland in 1941, where Cherry’s bridesmaid and Jack’s best man also fell in love and later married.

As slim as the day she married, Cherry would still be able to fit her wedding gown, which her granddaughter modelled for her at their 50th wedding anniversary celebration.

Cherry and Jack were both 18 when Jack first saw the pretty teenager spreading fertiliser by hand on her grandmother’s property. He stopped his car, jumped the fence and offered to help.

Jack was smitten with the charming Cherry and soon began courting her, but it wasn’t until he’d called several times before he was invited in for tea.

The couple’s first date was to the pictures, but Cherry had to be accompanied by her grandmother, who as a strict Christian insisted she chaperone them for the next three years until they became engaged.

Cherry had been brought up by her grandmother, who worked hard to make ends meet during the great depression.

She made Cherry and her sister shoes that had been cut from her own, and Cherry recalls being embarrassed to wear them to school.

“They looked like pixie shoes. But things were hard for everyone in those days. Some girls at school even wore knickers made out of Chelsea sugar sacks.

“We would walk miles to town to sell eggs and would bring them home again if we were not offered enough money for them.”

Life was still hard after Cherry married Jack, who had emigrated from Ireland when he was six. They managed a farm in Reporoa, which Cherry says was freezing in the winter.

“We often woke to frozen water pipes. The children had to walk a long way to school. They sometimes turned around and came home again because they were too cold,” recalls Cherry, who gave them a hot drink and sent them on their way to school again.

They lived in their own home until their 90th birthdays, but now that Jack has dementia, they’ve settled in the oerivale Retirement home in Kamo.

Their family celebrated their 70th anniversary at the couple’s son Kevin’s home in Whangarei, where the loving couple were thrilled to open letters from the Queen, the Governor General and Prime oinister John Key.

Cherry insisted on no presents.

“We don’t need anything. It would just be something we have to get rid of when we go,” she told her family.

one of the secrets to their long happy marriage was to do as many things together as possible. They both joined in delivering meals on wheels, and helped with the “happiness club” at their local church.

“And we never let the sun go down on a disagreement,” she says.

The worst argument they ever had was when Jack let their son off a final car payment at a time when the couple could barely afford to buy a loaf of bread.

“I was quite upset at the time, but it didn’t last long,” Cherry smiles. “His generosity is one of his best qualities.”

Jack is known to fret when he and Cherry are separated, and still loves to hold her hand.

“As long as he’s got Nana’s hand, he’s all right,” his family like to say.

And Cherry also knows that she’s a lucky woman. “A good marriage is a gem worth more than any gold or silver. I would marry him again if he would have me – and he had better!”

Related stories

Get The Australian Woman’s Weekly NZ home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.