Working together as a team is the secret to a long and happy marriage according to a Levin couple who celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary today.

While both Merle and Joe Johnson freely admitted to having the occasional "disagreement" during that time, that was only natural in a marriage and they soon worked things out.

Merle, 80, said the couple were a team - and it worked.

"You have to be there for one another. You do have your ups and downs but you work together as a team. It's teamwork," she said.


Joe, 86, said they were lucky to have each other. He was asked if had any advice for young married couples.

"You have to be good friends. Don't get me wrong. We might have a little quarrel - but only now and then. We look after one another. We sit down and talk," he said.

Merle and Joe Johnson received a letter from the Queen.
Merle and Joe Johnson received a letter from the Queen.

The teamwork extended to chores around the house, too. Joe would do the dishes while Merle got the children ready for bed. He would get them breakfast, while she would prepare the lunches.

Joe and Merle Johnson were married on July 21, 1960, at St Peter's Anglican Church in Wellington when she was 20 and he was 26.

Merle grew up in Poroutawhao near Levin and moved to Wellington to train as a nurse, while Joe was born and raised in Wellington.

The couple met at a dance on New Year's Eve at Berhampore and they continued to date for 18 months.

But on May 12, 1960, Joe decided enough was enough and purchased a engagement ring with five diamonds and, when the time was right, he proposed.

"She couldn't refuse me with a ring like that," he said.


On every wedding anniversary since they made sure they had time to themselves and would head out for dinner - just the two of them.

Merle, who celebrated her 80th birthday just before New Zealand went into Covid-19 lockdown, said this time they were looking forward to celebrating their special day with family.

Joe and Merle Johnson.
Joe and Merle Johnson.

The couple have five children - Leanne, Michael, Robert, Andrea and Lynnette - nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

They said their children had been brilliant in helping them with whatever they might need in their retirement.

"They are never far from us. If one of us has to go to hospital they are right there and take turns at staying and things like that," she said.

Like most young couple raising children, in the early days they worked hard and watched what they spent and saved hard for their first family home.


In 1978 the couple were lucky enough to have a windfall through the Golden Kiwi lottery that allowed them to have a family trip overseas.

They were also able to buy a new car and the money left over was put in the bank. It meant they were able to retire mortgage-free and later help their children with a deposit on their first homes.

They moved to Levin from Wellington in 1989, to be closer to family.

Meanwhile, Joe said they won't be renewing their vows to mark the occasion.

"I said them then and I meant them. We don't need to say them again," he said.

The couple opened the letterbox this week to find letters of congratulations from the Queen of England, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir David Gascoigne and the Minister for Seniors, Tracey Martin.