Keith Dustin is thankful he can see his beloved wife Nola every day.

After 63 years of marriage, they still share crossword puzzles and play cards, mainly patience these days as Nola's not quite the card sharp she once was.

She is still the creative craftswoman though - her hand is steady, her attention to detail sharp, her eye for colour resulting in gorgeous artworks.

As he has always done, Keith helps where he can, frames the artworks, encourages her to carry on doing what she loves.


But Nola now lives in fulltime care at Selwyn Park Village in Whangarei because she has Alzheimer's disease. Keith lives in the new unit in Kensington they bought just before the sudden onset of her illness.

About 75 years Nola ago came top of her school for art.

Her artworks now are pictures she colours in with felt pens, either in colouring-in books Keith buys her or drawings the staff distribute.

Keith has dozens of them that he's framed and he's even made a display board.

The pictures represent happy times when Nola, who cannot always focus, can concentrate fully on a task, relax into a zone of peace and creativity, and feel pride in the result.

Line by line, she fills in the pictures and everything in her life at that moment makes total sense.

"She can't do other things now. This is what she can do," Keith says.

He has given away many of the pictures but doesn't want the rest to just "be put away".

He thinks an exhibition would be a fitting tribute to his dear wife and her "marvellous work".

Finding somewhere to show the pictures has so far eluded him, but someone is bound to come up with an idea.

Then there is Nola's book.

Keith's very proud of her tenacity a few years ago in going back over the diary entries she made all her life, turning them into stories and typing them up into a book.

That journal also contains photos, some of the poems they both wrote "when we went through our poetry phase", and anecdotes.

Years ago Nola taught Keith to knit and together they'd make items to sell in craft markets and stalls in the various towns they lived.

She'd do the big stuff but he became a dab hand at beanies, babies' booties and bonnets.

They met on New Year's Eve, 1947, didn't catch up for another year, married four years later, and raised six children.

With children and grandchildren grown and scattered, in 2004 the couple moved to Wellsford from parts further south.

Keith's fall down some stairs and other health issues resulted in the couple giving up their large house overlooking the lush Wellsford countryside and move to Whangarei three years ago.

"We have had a good life. I have no regrets," he says.

But his voice cracks a little as he recounts some of the decisions that had to be made when Alzheimer's came to live with them.

Keith's chronic back injury, being in remission from cancer and needing a walking frame meant he couldn't manage Nola's care.

For a time they tried a couple of options, like living together in residential villages.

Now, Keith visits her every day except Tuesday, which is the day she goes on a bus trip with other residents from her wing.

He'll keep most of her colouring-in; the pictures will become to him like the journal she once made from a lifetime of saved diary entries.

After finishing that first journal, Nola started on a second one.

It breaks Keith's heart to know it will never be finished.

"The last item in it reads 'this will probably be the last entry I ever write'. And it was."