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60 years strong

Gercine Carter

60 years strong

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Mary Hill sits beside her husband Don, occasionally breaking out in girlish giggles as her husband talks about their 61-year marriage. She is clearly the quiet partner, Don the more talkative taking the lead as the two octogenarians reminisce about their enduring marriage.  
Mary is quick to admit it was not love at first sight when the two teenagers first met at Haslemere Youth Council in Surrey, where she was secretary and he was chairman. They now both agree that “love just grew”. 
And, Don advises, “It is important to remember that people that meet young and have just one partner do a lot better in life than those that have several partners and wait till they are 25 and 30 to get married. That is the secret to it, I’ll tell you.
“Also, this idea of not having children until you are 38 and 39, that’s for the birds.”
The two got married when Mary was 20 and he 22. Six decades later, Mary still regards her wedding ring as the most memorable gift her husband ever bought her. Their wedding cost “seven and sixpence”. 
“We went to church, got married and that was it. We did have a cake . . . . Don used to take the top layer to work every day for weeks,” Mary recalled. 
Don compares the simplicity of their wedding with today’s elaborate and expensive weddings and remarks: “Now people take too much to get married. They spend all their money; they break their parents. Ours cost seven and six for the license, and we had our honeymoon in a caravan on a beach.”
Could they ever have imagined themselves being together 60 years on?  
Don’s deliberate response was: “The marriage  ceremony says till death do us part. I would shoot anyone getting a divorce . . . because it is not right. When they make that vow, the vow should be for life.”
Mary Hill remained at home and took care of her family when her children were young because, like her husband, she believed this is where she belonged.
Raising a family during the war years, the two were frugal from the outset and Don advises married couples: “Share your money.
“If you could see us when we first got married!I was earning about five and a half dollars a week, Barbados money,” Don said.
“I brought home about a dozen cardboard boxes and we labelled them all. Every Friday night we’d put them on the table, this for the mortgage, this for electricity, this for food, this for the gas, this for clothes and the last three boxes there was never enough (to put some money into them) so the next week we’d start that end and work back.
“We ran out of money and we ran out of food every Thursday night. It was the end of the war. Everything was rationed . . . . Things were tough.”
Mary interjected at this point: “We survived.” They insist that their love for each other was the glue that held them together and their anchor in those difficult times. Mary said: “I did all I knew . . . to make sure the marriage worked . . . . l did everyday things – be there to listen, talk things over, always be there for him when he came home from work.”
Don added: “I have never come home and found a situation where there was not a meal ready. That is important to a man.”
The Hills never bought anything on a credit card.“Every time we wanted something, we’d . . . save up for that,” Don pointed out. “It might take a year or two years, but we bought cash. We never bought anything on hire purchase. Still don’t.”  
Don was manager of the Barbados Telephone Company for 32 years. In spite of the demanding job, Don and Mary ensured there was family time slotted in. They packed sandwiches and took their three sons picnicking around Barbados or to the beach on weekends.
Part of Don’s recipe for a successful marriage is adherence to the biblical adage “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath”. 
“I don’t think we ever went to bed at night cross,” he said. “If  I were a marriage counsellor, I would advise: Never go to bed cross.”
With his job, he travelled extensively and there were long separations from his wife, sometimes with hardly any communication between the two, but he boasted: “I never strayed.”
Don loved to read and his wife’s hobby is cross stitch.
Every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday she goes to the active senior class in the gym while he heads for the treadmill and the bicycle. 
They visit their children in Canada or England every year.
Love continues to be the force that drives the Hills.