Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Roses affirm 70 years of 'the most wonderful love'


Jeanne and Hardie Drake will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary today by renewing their wedding vows.

The pair married on March 7, 1946 after a whirlwind romance only lasting about a year. They both knew they were destined for each other after first laying eyes on one another.

Hardie Francis Drake was a leading signalman in World War II. He was about to go on leave, home to Dunedin, and needed somewhere to stay overnight in Wellington in 1945. One of his sailors convinced him to go and stay with his family in Petone.

Hardie and Jeanne are renewing their wedding vows today in front of close family and friends. Photo / George Novak
Hardie and Jeanne are renewing their wedding vows today in front of close family and friends. Photo / George Novak

Sixteen-year-old Jeanne answered the door and that was it for the couple. Some time later Mrs Drake received a parcel from her beau, a block of Heards toffee which was unavailable in the shops at the time. She took a bit more notice of the blue-eyed-signalman the next time he came to stay.

"He showed other traits which endeared him to me. He helped with the dishes, did his own washing, made my mum sit down while he made the cuppas, all something I had not seen in a man before," Mrs Drake told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend while holding her husband's hand.

"He was really loveable and friendly. He had lovely hands, I would sit by the fire as I had long hair then and he would sit there and comb it. It was beautiful."

Mr Drake had to go back to Stephens Island and was then moved to HMS Philomel in Auckland while Mrs Drake continued her career in singing and ballet in Wellington but they kept in touch by mail.

Mrs Drake still has all the letters Mr Drake sent her. Wrapped in a blue ribbon she still takes them out to read every so often. In one letter he tells her how much she is worth in pennies and threepences.

They married on March 7, 1946. They were blessed with three children, Jennifer born 1948, David born 1949 and Stephen in 1955. They have nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

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Mrs Drake, now 88, said she was fortunate to have a proper wedding dress made for their big day.

"Those were the days where you had to have cards to buy anything, but somebody in a shop downtown in Dunedin had some fabric under the counter. "They gave me enough of this beautiful material for my wedding dress."

Mr Drake, now 93, wore his sailor's uniform.

Like any marriage they had had their fair share of arguments, Mrs Drake said. "We would have an argument, then our eyes would meet and we would just burst out laughing. So stupid, most of the things we would argue about.

"I was told once 'even your worst enemy, if you really looked at them you would find something to admire. Even if it's only their eyelashes. If I got annoyed with Hardie I just had to look at his blue eyes and I would melt."

Mrs Drake said they shared their marriage equally with each other.

"You often find a partner has an interest or hobby which takes over their whole life. We haven't been like that. We have both had interests away from one another but then we have always had something of interest together and always had plenty to talk about.

"We did rock hounding. We heard there were gems being found over Australia so we went over and started digging for sapphires.

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"Over the years we have been over again for many, many months. We have dug for sapphires, garnets, topaz, everything. We never looked at it from a money point of view, we went for type of life. You are right out in the desert, it's simply beautiful."

Clearly still smitten with each other, Mrs Drake said they decided to renew their vows today because they loved each other so much.

It was a few weeks shy of their anniversary so valued friends and family members could be there.

"We felt, how wonderful to stand there again. We are not going to give each other a ring this time, we will give each other a rose."

When Mrs Drake asked her husband what he loved about her, he simply said: "It's you".

He still remembers the day he first knocked on her family's door, he said. Mrs Drake said she felt for people whose marriages did not last.

"They are missing out on the most wonderful love."

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