Travel lovers Graham and Dorothy Harker of Te Awamutu had planned several parties and trips abroad this year to celebrate their Diamond Wedding Anniversary and two significant birthdays.

Instead they had drinks with family around the globe, thanks to Zoom.

Graham and Dorothy (nee Raine) both grew up on farms near Te Awamutu.

The Harkers farmed Ellerton at Te Kawa West and the Raines farmed Westgate at Orakau.

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Graham completed his education at Feilding Agricultural High School and then returned to farm Ellerton with his brother Peter.

They purchased the farm in 1954 and converted it to dairy, milking 330 cows — which was considered a large herd in its day.

Dorothy left the district as well for the only time in her life to attend a secondary boarding school in Masterton.

Back home the pair were involved in Young Farmers and the Junior National Party, as well as attending fortnightly dances at the Te Awamutu Town Hall and playing sport, such as tennis and badminton.

In 1957 Graham managed to put together some overseas funds and ordered a new Austin A55 from local dealer Seabrook Fowlds. He says they offered him the A50 that arrived, but he had seen magazines from family in England that showed the new A55 was on the way and held out for the upgraded model.

It was baby blue, and Graham added dark blue to make it two-tone and stand out.

Dorothy says she had met Graham through their shared interests and hobbies and when he asked her out she was impressed he had a new and quite flash car.

Their first date was a vice versa party, so Graham turned up dressed and made-up beautifully by his mother as a woman.

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They hit it off and were married on May 7, 1960.

Newly-weds Graham and Dorothy Harker.
Newly-weds Graham and Dorothy Harker.

To keep all parties happy, the wedding was in the Te Awamutu Methodist Church and the reception in St Patrick's Catholic Hall.

The couple built a new home on Ellerton, where they lived for 18 years. It was then in 1978 the partnership purchased another farm at Te Kawa.

Named Tarndale, a combination of the family name Tarn and the Yorkshire dales, it became Graham and Dorothy's new family home.

After a couple of years the partnership was amicably split, and as Tarndale was smaller, the Harkers came out with some cash to invest in another farm.

They purchased another block in Pokuru and developed Westell (named after their parents' farms) which has been further expanded and is still farmed by the couple's son and his wife, David and Wendy.

They eventually added a third farm to their portfolio, then sold all three in the same year Fonterra formed and purchased one larger dairy farm, now operated by a 50-50 sharemilker.

After 18 years living at Tarndale the couple moved to Kihikihi. They were in that home 18 years before shifting to Highfield Retirement Village — so keeping with tradition fully expect to live there 18 years also.

The couple say they lived and worked through an exciting time in the dairy industry, and it was great for raising their three children and then welcoming eight grandchildren, and later three great-grandchildren.

They say they have a terrific family, but there is always enough love for more.

They enjoyed tennis with friends, having family around and fishing trips to Kawhia, Omokoroa and Tauranga.

Graham's main claim to fame in the industry was having Harkers Energy 93247 as part of the LIC Premier Team from 1993 for several years. Dorothy, as the calf rearer, claims it was her good skills early on that led to the success.

Graham says she was the one that kept the family together.

She was also a self-taught seamstress and there were always visitors to the home for dress fittings.

She says she catered for many bridal groups, made dance costumes and made new dresses or did alterations to help people get the perfect fit.

In one decade Dorothy made bridal gowns for four daughters of the same family.

Some of the Harker clan on a family adventure. Photos / Supplied
Some of the Harker clan on a family adventure. Photos / Supplied

Rural Women and playing Mah-jong were her passions for many years, and she made many friends.

The couple also enjoyed the company of fellow farmers on day and weekend treks to explore New Zealand.

They also had an annual outback trek, and still get together with family for an adventure excursion.

But their biggest travel passion is overseas travel, planning an annual trip which has seen them touch down in 57 countries — and counting.

For all their experiences they say nothing beats home.

Dorothy has enjoyed 20 years as a volunteer at the Te Awamutu i-Site, where she loves sharing all that Te Awamutu and district has to offer.

Another love now is getting out in their classic 1957 Austin A55 — not the original though as that was sold to fund a run-off.

But later Graham managed to buy another in auction for $375. It was used as a paddock basher and all the children used it to learn to drive.

Lately it has been restored to replicate the first car in which Graham picked up Dorothy for their first date more than six decades ago.