Sixty years of happy marriage is a milestone David and Beverley Garland are immensely proud of, but it almost didn't happen.

In 1957, Mr Garland was working as an electrician in the Merchant Navy when the couple got engaged. He was returning from service in the United Kingdom specifically to get married.

"I was meant to have arrived back in New Zealand two weeks before the wedding but because of continuous engine trouble I only made it back four days before!"

The couple married on December 18, 1957, at St Ninian's Presbyterian Church, Riccarton, Christchurch. On Monday, the couple celebrate a diamond anniversary, even if Mrs Garland had to buy her own wedding ring.

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"I thought I couldn't take the risk," she said, smiling.

Sitting with his hand on his wife's knee, Mr Garland paused to look at her before revealing why he thought they were so happy.

"It's the little things. There's always a hug and a kiss … I won't say any further," Mr Garland said before erupting into laughter.

"We frequently got talked about as being the couple always walking hand in hand."

Mr Garland joked that was only because they were holding each other up. The two then burst into laughter.

"It comes down to absolute respect and, where possible, doing things together," Mr Garland said.

The Garlands have spent most of their lives working for community services or charities.

During their 15 years in Tauranga, they have been actively involved in Rotary and Probus clubs, New Zealand Red Cross, United Seafarers Mission, Scouting and St Peters in the City Church.

Last year, Mr Garland was made a Local Hero in the New Zealander of the Year awards for his contribution to the community.

David and Beverly Garland who celebrate 60 years together sneak a quick kiss when the think the camera isn't snapping. Photo / John Borren
David and Beverly Garland who celebrate 60 years together sneak a quick kiss when the think the camera isn't snapping. Photo / John Borren

"We have always been very community-focused," he said.

The couple met through Scouts back when Mr Garland was "much, much younger" and Mrs Garland had a shock of red hair.

"I was quite taken with her," he said.

The couple planned to travel the world together with the Navy no longer allowing wives on ships with husbands.

So Mr Garland threw in the job, borrowed some money from his father "and the rest is history".

They went on to have three children and seven grandchildren in Christchurch and still managed to travel the world before settling in Tauranga.

Mr and Mrs Garland are now returning to their hometown permanently to be with family.

Mr Garland has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related cancer and Mrs Garland's health is also beginning to fail.

"Tauranga is a wonderful community. We've been involved with heaps and heaps. It has been a very, very, very full life and fortunately, up until now, we've had good health. But we need to be near extended family for that final part. We are looking forward to many, many years to come," he said. "Life is still as exciting today as it was 60 years ago."