Little white lie led to eight decades of happiness

By Frances Morton


Linda Hopkins lied the first time she met her husband.
More than eight decades ago Mrs Hopkins - then aged 13 - and her two girlfriends were promenading in an English park accompanied by melodic strains from the bandstand wafting in the wind.
The three girls attracted the attention of Bert Hopkins and his two friends, also out walking and a triple love match was made - despite Mrs Hopkins' fib.
"She told me she was 15," chuckled Mr Hopkins.
Love must have been in the air that day. All six friends paired off into couples and married.
On Tuesday, 99-year-old Mr Hopkins and 97-year-old Mrs Hopkins of Mount Maunganui will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary together.
Unfortunately the disruption of World War 2 caused the couple to lose contact with the four friends who shared their first meeting on that fortunate day.
In 1948, the Hopkins and their daughter, Shirley Woods, immigrated to New Zealand to escape the hardships of war-torn England.
The family arrived in Wellington but their stay in the capital was short-lived.
"All we saw was tin roofs. I wasn't very diplomatic in those days," recalled Mrs Hopkins.
"Coming here I said 'my goodness, we only put tin roofs on cattlesheds'."
The Hopkins swiftly relocated northwards and settled in Takapuna where Mr Hopkins and two colleagues formed electrical supply business JA Russell.
The couple moved to the Bay of Plenty nine years ago.
Seated in their comfortable living room at Oceanshores Retirement Village, both look at least 30 years younger than they are.
When asked the secret to their impressive record in love and life, they shrug it off as nothing extraordinary.
"I don't know really," said Mrs Hopkins.

"We have many arguments. There's nothing perfect. You have to get over them."
They eat healthy home-cooking, have led a sporty lifestyle, continue to read avidly and keep a lively sense of humour.
Mrs Hopkins said she had "burnt many a saucepan" while she had her head in a good book.
"Not silly love things, not that sloppy lot. Anything - spies, murders, biographies. Dad likes a good thriller."
So after all these years are there any habits that still get under the skin?
"This business," said Mrs Hopkins, swatting at her husband absent-mindedly scratching his hand. "That annoys me."
"At my age, I'm allowed to do things," quipped Mr Hopkins back at his wife with a smile and gentle roll of his eyes.
The Hopkins are avoiding any fanfare for Tuesday but are celebrating their anniversary with a small family dinner and champagne and cake with their friends at Oceanshores.
Their daughter said the real celebration would be in December when her father turns 100.
After an 84-year relationship the couple still enjoys going for walks hand in hand. "Especially when it's windy," said Mrs Hopkins. "I'm afraid he's going to fall over so I hold on."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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