The secret to a long and happy marriage is to marry your best friend and share common interests.
That is the word from Kim and Pat Bowyer who celebrated their 70th anniversary on Tuesday.
The 92-year-old couple both grew up in Thirroul and Bulli, met at Wollongong High, married at 22 and have been inseparable every since.
They had two children Wendy Akhurst and the late Ken Bowyer. And have seven grand children, 19 great grand children and one great great grandchild.
On Tuesday they started their celebration by enjoying a quiet lunch with their daughter, son-in-law Graeme Akhurst and daughter-in-law Diane Bowyer.
They will catch up with more family and friends over coming days.
But there were some surprises in store with letters from the Queen, Prime Minister, Governor General, Governor of NSW, NSW Premier, State and Federal MP’s such as Sharon Bird, Ryan Park and Shelley Hancock as well as Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbury.
Mrs Bowyer described the letters as “a lovely surprise”.
“I wasn’t expecting all this,” Mr Bowyer said.
The two school friends were married in the Thirroul Presbyterian Church on Saturday, January 8, 1949 and are life-long members of the Uniting Church in Bulli.
Asked about the secret to a long marriage. Mr Bowyer said to remember you are not the only one in it.
“There are two in a marriage and I have been married to my best friend.
“The best thing about being married so long is being together. We do everything together. We shared everything when the children came”.
Mrs Bowyer said “we have always had common interests”.
They include teaching, tennis, fishing and gardening.
They are life members of the Illawarra Camellia Society and their garden at the Thirroul home Mrs Bowyer has lived in all her life except one year when she was teaching in country NSW won several Wollongong City Council Open Garden competitions over the years.
Mr Bowyer’s real name is Keith but the nickname given to him by his father stuck. He is a dedicated Rotarian who attended the Bulli club for many years.
Wollongong High School – where they met in the 1930’s – was located at Smiths Hill at the time, and they both attended Sydney Teachers’ College at the same time and spent their entire careers, teaching and caring for children.
Mrs Bowyer first taught at Port Kembla Public School, before doing NSW country service and then finishing her career at Thirroul Public School.
Mr Bowyer taught at many many schools and is remembered as a much-loved school principal at Balarang Public School, Albion Park Rail Public School and Port Kembla Public School when the Governor of NSW General David Hurley was a student.
Both their own children followed in their teaching footsteps.
“Happiness is being married to your best friend,” he said.
Mrs Akhurst said the one difficult thing about celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary was finding a card that said 70.
She and her late brother both became teachers.
And said they both felt lucky to have such wonderful parents.
“We had a wonderful childhood. I can remember mum winning a fishing competition at Ballina using pineapple as bait,” she said.
The next milestone for the happy Thirroul couple will be their 93rd birthdays this year.
They are the same age as the Queen who has now written to them on their 50th, 60th and 70th wedding anniversaries.