Valentine couple celebrates diamond anniversary

By Laurilee McMichael

When Maurice and Pamela Heyes tied the knot 60 years ago, Valentine's Day was unheard of.

So the only significance to the pair's wedding date of February 14, 1953, was that it fell just before Lent, the traditional Christian season of self-denial.

"If we wanted a summer wedding, which we did, we had to go before [Lent]," explained Mrs Heyes.

Nowadays though, it's fitting that after six decades of marriage, much happiness but more than their fair share of sadness and worry, the couple will celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary on Valentine's Day today.

The couple wed in Lower Hutt when Mrs Heyes, then Pamela O'Keefe, was 20 and Mr Heyes nearly 22, but they had been courting for three years after meeting through friends. Mrs Heyes was at her girlfriend Pam's house when she first met her future husband, who was friends with Pam's older brother.

"I wasn't really into boys in those days. I went to Chilton St James and my parents had friends who lived down the street and their son went to Hutt Valley High School and I wasn't even allowed to ride my bicycle to the same place as him. It was an absolute no-no.

"I didn't even think about going out with him [Mr Heyes], to be honest."

However, Mrs Heyes clearly stood out for Mr Heyes, who thought she looked "pretty good". It didn't take him long to ask her out to a Saturday night dance at the Lower Hutt Horticultural Hall.

That was the first of many dances and balls for Mrs Heyes, who was working as a figure analyst at Ajax, and Mr Heyes, who was then a young customs agent. Three years later when Mrs Heyes' parents announced they were moving to Auckland, it was time to tie the knot. Mrs Heyes did not want to move north, did not fancy the idea of boarding and back then, flatting was not an option. She and Mr Heyes had discussed marriage, so Mr Heyes, during a golf game with his future father-in-law, waited for the right moment to ask him for permission.

"When he played a good shot, that's when I asked the question," he chuckled.

The pair ran a business marketing road safety equipment - they brought the first road cats' eyes and the first traffic cones into New Zealand - and Mr Heyes later had an AMP agency.

The Heyes retired to Taupo from Lower Hutt 16 years ago and their wide range of interests keeps them busy and engaged in the community. The Heyes have been involved with service clubs Jaycees and Rotary, are active members of Probus and involved with the Anglican Church. They both enjoy golf and are keen artists. But there have been tough times too.

Their only child, Joanne, died of breast cancer when she was just 39.

She is survived by her own daughter and the Heyes have a great-grandson in Christchurch, with whom they keep in close contact. Mr Heyes has survived four brushes with cancer and heart trouble, and Mrs Heyes is also a cancer survivor.

Joanne fought her cancer for seven years and the couple had to draw on their stores of compassion, understanding and patience to get through.

"Life is not easy. You don't get through it simply," Mrs Heyes said.

"You must support each other. A sense of humour goes a long way."

Mr Heyes said finding a balance between their own interests and keeping themselves busy in the community, helping other people and being with their friends brings balance to their lives.

"We work together as friends and I think that's important too."

The couple has received congratulations from the Queen, Prime Minister John Key and Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, and today they're having a cocktail party with more than 30 friends to mark 60 years of marriage.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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