It was just after wartime in 1948 when Ken Fenton saw a "delicious looking woman" walking down the street.

Three weeks later he was engaged and within six months was married to the person who is now his wife of 70 years, Joan Fenton.

It was back when troops were still returning home from war, letters were their only form of communication overseas and a house cost just $4000, that Ken and Joan fell in love.

Joining the army at the age of 17 and fighting in the end of World War II, Ken moved from a posting in Auckland down to Wellington in 1948 when he saw Joan for the first time.


"It was still semi wartime with troops coming home when I saw this delicious looking young woman walking down the street."

Ken and Joan's wedding photo on their 70th wedding anniversary cake. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Ken and Joan's wedding photo on their 70th wedding anniversary cake. Photo / Rosalie Willis

Joan was babysitting on the same street Ken's father lived on and it was Ken's father who introduced the couple.

"It was on a Monday morning at the bus stop when he introduced us.

"It wasn't quite an arranged marriage but I saw her at some distance and thought 'what a beautiful young woman'."

At the time Ken was 23 and Joan 19.

"We met in May, were engaged three weeks later, chose the engagement ring, and were married in October," Joan said.

"He was a fast worker."

The couple endured many years of Ken working in the army with postings overseas meaning the couple had many months apart for almost 30 years.

"I had various assignments overseas where Joan couldn't come.

"But they were normally for just a month or two."

Having three children kept Joan busy while Ken was away, but as Ken was an army engineer he did not get the long overseas postings that some people had.

Vietnam was their only posting together in 1968, giving Joan the opportunity to work for the Red Cross with the children staying in New Zealand.

"Despite all these breaks and semi-breaks we just got on with life.

"The only way we had contact with our children was by letter and they took quite a long time."

Becoming a colonel in 1970 and then leaving the army after 32 years in 1974, Ken and Joan now live in Coastal Villas, Paraparaumu.

Celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary together this week, Ken is in the hospital unit with the after-effects of a stroke and Joan is in an apartment 300m away.

That doesn't stop them, with Joan walking down to see Ken twice a day.

"We're still supporting each other to some extent. I ring her first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening," Ken said.

"He even blows kisses to me down the phone," Joan laughs.

They say the greatest part about being together so long has been the companionship and predictability of each other, something they will be celebrating with their family and friends for their 70th wedding anniversary this week.