A Rotorua couple will today celebrate with their loved ones a special milestone in their relationship which is full of memories.

Joseph and Dorothy Gielen are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with a luncheon at Skyline, joined by family and close friends.

Dorothy lived in Ngaruawahia and Joseph would come home to the town on leave from the New Zealand Defence Force.

They first met on a blind date where they went to a ball in Hamilton. Joseph says it was his mother who set the date up.

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"She says, 'Joe, I found the perfect girl for you'."

He says he had never clapped eyes on Dorothy before, but he knew the family.

"My first impressions of Dorothy was that she was nice. I had never met someone like that before who I felt attracted to in that way."

He says he asked her out again and again. Dorothy thinks it was love at first sight.

Joseph and Dorothy got married in Ngaruawahia on June 21, 1969, at St Paul's Catholic Church.

They say it was a cold winter's morning and you could not see the church in the fog.

The couple have gone on to have four children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Joseph worked for the New Zealand Defence Force as a soldier, and after they got married they moved to the military base in Papakura during the Vietnam War, when New Zealand was at war.

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He says they had to make a choice as he had come up for re-enlistment.

Joseph says he wanted to stay married to Dorothy, so he left the army and they moved to Waiouru, taking their three little children at the time with them.

There he was the operator of water services infrasrtucture through the Ministry of Works, and then an opportunity came up in Rotorua, April 1973.

When Rotorua's new wastewater treatment plant was built he managed the operations.

"We've been here ever since. We became part of the community with all our children."

Joseph says Dorothy worked for about 20 years in the hospitality industry.

He says she was a busy mother bringing all the children up and had to go to work at night to help make ends meet.

The couple are now retired.

Joseph says throughout the years he has enjoyed bringing their family up in Rotorua and having a nice family home.

"My highlight would be the family, I'm very family orientated. Bringing my children up and having a passion for my job."

Dorothy says she also enjoyed the years they rode around the country on the motorbike and that they have travelled a lot overeas.

She says trust, patience, communication and compromising is important for a long, successful relationship.

Joseph says they have always been open with each other and do not hide things - "We are very frank with each other".

He says he did not go into the marriage thinking "I'm going to be married for 50 years"
but has been married that long because he wants to be, "and I'm lucky I've got a lady who wants to be with me".