Hugh and Rae Dixon's love affair stretched seven decades and changed New Zealand's music scene forever — and when it was time to play their final note, they did that together as well.
The Auckland love birds, who were married for 69 years, died recently, just nine days apart, aged 93 and 90.
The pair met as students at the Wellington teachers' training college in the late 40s and went on to marry on May 5, 1951.
Hugh's younger sister Pat said her brother was something of a hunk at high school as a singer and trumpet player in the dance band.
So popular was he, that when he was in teachers' college and recovering from a burst appendix at home in Lower Hutt, a girl came riding on a bicycle from Wellington, "all cherry" to check in on him.
"And that's the first time I met Rae," Pat said.
Hugh is credited with bringing concert band culture to New Zealand, having founded the Auckland Youth Symphonic Band in 1967.
The group inspired ensembles featuring wind and brass instruments to form up and down the country and gave many renowned Kiwi musicians — including popular singer Don McGlashan — their first taste of performing.
Wife Rae was there every step of the way, not only working tirelessly behind the scenes but infusing the five Dixon kids' childhood with love and a passion for song.
"Mum and dad lived their ideals: non-violence, unconditional love, rejoicing in the beauty of music and nature, devotion to family, and sharing a deep spirituality," daughter Kathleen Dixon said.
They were also inseparable to the end, having moved into a care facility together after Hugh was diagnosed with dementia.
When Rae had to isolate last year for two weeks as a Covid-19 precaution, Hugh spent his time wheeling to her doorway to talk together and listen to their favourite tunes.
Even in his last month, he rallied for wheelchair visits, grabbing a flower from his room to "gallantly" present to Rae.
He died on December 29 and at his funeral soon afterwards, Rae collapsed.
Tests showed it was an undiagnosed complication from diabetes. Yet in that moment she sought comfort from music.
At the emergency department, while waiting for an X-ray, Rae launched into song.
Bystanders watched on, "blown away", as Rae, Kathleen and Kathleen's sister Norine sung popular 1940s and 1950s hit, Around the Corner (Beneath the Berry Tree).
"You couldn't spend any time with her without her breaking into some little ditty or popular song," Kathleen said.
"When The Sound of Music came to the movies, mum took the five of us children with her five times to see it, she loved it so much."
Rae died on January 7, nine days after her beloved husband.
The couple leave behind children and children-in-law Wendy, Kathleen, Norine and Haydn, Michael and Chryssy, and Antony and Stefanie as well as a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
All of the Dixon children played in the AYSB; Wendy and Michael in particular pursued careers as professional musicians.
When Hugh set up the AYSB, there were no bands combining brass and wind instruments in the country other than the official New Zealand Navy Band.
But by 1973, just six years after founding the group, it had more than 90 players.
"Since then, many schools have set up their own groups for wind and brass players, and there are very few schools without such a group," the AYSB's website said.
So-called concert bands tend to differ from orchestras by having more drums, trumpets, clarinets and other wind instruments.
Professional conductor and clarinet soloist David Adlam was among a host of star musicians to emerge from the AYSB.
Others included Wayne Laird, now a top recording engineer, John Boscawen, who became an Act Party MP, and Mary Martin, who played at the prestigious Lincoln Centre in the United States.
Adlam described Hugh as "a legend" for the musical legacy he left behind.
The couple's children simply remember a family united by love and music.
"Music was more than our glue, it was the way we breathed," daughter Wendy said.