Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

Lost sweetheart 'followed her dream'

Bernie Bluett.
Bernie Bluett.

A man who was reunited with his wartime sweetheart after 70 years apart is "absolutely devastated'' by her death just 10 months after their belated marriage.

Bob Humphries, 90, refused to leave the bedside of his long-lost love, Christchurch woman Bernie Bluett, 88, as she lay in hospital in the days before her death.

The pair were married last year after re-discovering each-other from across the world following their separation during World War II.

But the star-crossed lovers had only 10 months of married life together before she passed away earlier this month from a heart attack in her native England.

Bernie took ill shortly after hosting a 90th birthday party for her husband, in which she "looked an absolute million dollars'' in a black velvet dress and jacket, Rev Doris Goddard said.

"She stood up and gave a little speech and said how happy he had made her in the time that she had over here, which is a memory that I will treasure,'' said Rev Goddard, who married the couple and will conduct the funeral service at St John the Baptist Church in Pawlett, Somerset.

"And then she didn't feel well and went into hospital for some tests and I gather she had a heart attack there, and went into unconsciousness.''

But Bob refused to leave her side.

"He was very faithful, hung onto her hand,'' Rev Goddard said, adding that the family asked her to go to the hospital and convince him to come home to rest because he would not leave her.

Bernie died shortly after he returned the next day.

"She did follow her dream and came over here, and I think they both knew that neither were in the best of health, but they were going to make the best of whatever time they had,'' Rev Goddard said.

"I guess that to her, to them both, it was worth it to just have that time together, which they made the most of.''

Rev Goddard described Bob as "absolutely bereft'' and devastated by her death, saying he was too upset to make any decisions about her send off.

"I don't know about Bob, I don't think he'll ever really get over this,'' she said.

A funeral and cremation service will take place on Tuesday afternoon UK time (Wednesday morning NZ time), during which their love for each other will be celebrated as Bernie is cremated in the blue dress she wore on her wedding day and a passage from Corinthians, which they chose for their marriage ceremony, will be read.

Her three children - Robin, who lives in Christchurch, Mark from Sydney, and Graham, from the UK - will all be at the funeral.

Bernie and Bob dated in their late teens but were separated when he was enlisted in the army and she joined the Royal Air Force during the war.

He wrote to his sweetheart - but unknown to either of them, Bernie's parents did not pass on the letters.

After two years of silence, Bernie married a Kiwi RAF pilot, Roy Bluett, and moved to Christchurch.

Bernie's husband died 12 years ago and Bob's wife, Beryl, died in 2012.


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