A couple who met in the army during World War II have committed to each other in sickness and in health for seven decades.
Evan and Leone Harris from Maungatapere celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on July 17.
The couple met during World War II in the Territorial Army, where they were both part of the anti-aircraft regiments at Nelson aerodrome.
They married in 1943 and Evan joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force so the two could enjoy an extra year together while he trained in Rotorua.
In 1944 he was sent to Liverpool for further training, which involved a dangerous cargo ship journey zigzagging across the Atlantic on an erratic course to avoid enemy submarine fire.
After the war Evan and Leone trained as teachers and went on to teach at Dilworth School in Auckland for 11 years.
In 1963 they moved to Popondetta, Papua New Guinea, to teach at an Anglican mission station.
In the years following they taught in various schools in Northland including six years at Kerikeri Christian School.
One of the highlights of their long life together is the time they spent in Kaeo, where they had an open home.
Many people came through - some hitchhikers stayed just for a meal and a bed for the night, others stayed for several years.
The couple have four children, 19 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
"Family is so precious to us," Leone says. "We live in a cottage on our daughter and son-in-law's farm. We are surrounded by family and love being involved in the lives of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"Both Evan and I are 91 now, and we are so grateful to God for the wonderful life we are still enjoying."
In recent years Evan has been his wife's full-time carer after she suffered a small stroke. This he has done with great joy.
"I am thankful that I'm fit and able to fulfil the vow I made to Leone all those years ago when I promised to love her for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health."
He says successful marriages don't just happen - they are built.
"When you share your life with someone, there will be hard times, hurts and misunderstandings. But with commitment and forgiveness, our love will continue to deepen and grow.
"As we learn to communicate and forgive, we can discover the rich blessings that God ordained when He created marriage."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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