Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Listening is key to 60 happy years

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A 15-year-old high school students Hawke's Bay couple Ray and Merlyn Jarden had no idea they would some day celebrate 60 years of marriage.

The Hastings couple met at a Lower Hutt High School dance in the 1940s, and became fast friends before Ray's family relocated to the South Island.

"Good heavens no I didn't think we would get married," Mrs Jarden said.

"After a couple of years he moved way down to the West Coast and I didn't realise that after a few years he would come back.

"We were friends after we met at the school dance and I would go and watch him play football and if there were things on at school we would go together but I didn't realise it would carry on like this - but it certainly did."

Mining work brought Mr Jarden back north, and he courted his future wife with trips to the movies, theatre, church and beach outings. The pair got engaged as 20-year-olds and married the next year on February 21, 1953, after Mrs Jarden recuperated from tuberculosis contracted while nursing.

The newlyweds settled in Hastings at Ormond Lodge before having three children: Andrew, Raewyn and David.

The secret to a long and happy marriage was listening, Mrs Jarden said.

"We were pretty much always happy, we were often poor in the beginning, but always happy," she said. "We have done quite a lot in our lives and had very happy times.

"We have been very lucky with our children. They have all been happy and done well so we have learned to count our blessings."

The family enjoyed campervan trips and travelled all over the North and South Islands, visiting different locations and relatives.

Mr Jarden was a territorial soldier for 15 years, and achieved the rank of sergeant major. He also worked as a farm manager and had a lengthy career in Graeme Lowe's meat plants.

The pair enjoyed many hobbies and interests together including theatre and socialising with special friends the Hardings, Kyles, Weterings and Coozes.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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