After 69 years, Neville Putt won't give up on love


Phyllis Putt was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 13 years ago. Despite recommendations to put her into a care facility, her husband of almost 69 years Neville refuses to leave her side.

On January 11 Neville and Phyllis Putt celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary. Christopher Reive speaks with them about staying true to their vows.

Over the sound of a steel guitar, Neville and Phyllis Putt fell in love.

Now, the meaning behind the sound only registers with one of them.

What's your secret to lasting love?

Share your stories, photos and videos.

"It's all through the music really, that we got together," Neville explained.

"We were in an orchestra together, and it all grew from there. We seemed to click together."

The sounds don't resonate with Phyllis anymore though, as 13 years ago she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Phyllis Putt was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 13 years ago. Despite recommendations to put her into a care ...

Phyllis Putt was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 13 years ago. Despite recommendations to put her into a care facility, her husband of 69 years, Neville, refuses to leave her side.

"It was a terrible shock. It's a thing you wouldn't dream about in your wildest dream, you know.

"I remember the doctor saying to me 'she'll be nothing like the girl you married.' It just makes me cry when I think about it. All of your dreams are shattered," Neville said.

"One thing she used to do was she'd cook and I'd be down in the garden and think 'what's that smell?'

Phyllis and Neville Putt were married 69 years ago.

Phyllis and Neville Putt were married 69 years ago.

"I'd find the potatoes had been put half on the ring but with no water in them. So you start to think there's something going on."

Ad Feedback

Around five years ago the suggestion was made that Neville should put Phyllis, now 87, into a care facility. Staying true to his wedding vow of "in sickness and in health," he refused.

"I didn't want to put her into a home. We've always been together and I didn't want to part with her. In the early stages you can pamper them and look after them. You don't want to throw them away like an old slipper," Neville said.

Phyllis still reaches for Neville's hand for support despite her Alzheimer's disease affecting her memory.

Phyllis still reaches for Neville's hand for support despite her Alzheimer's disease affecting her memory.

"We both made wedding vows we'd look after each other as long as we possibly could, and you often say to each other you can't imagine life without them.

"I told her I'd care for her as long as I possibly could. They mean a lot to me - a lot more than they mean these days," Neville said.

Neville, now 93, said the disease didn't begin to show for the first couple of years.

Phyllis Putt was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 13 years ago. Despite recommendations to put her into a care ...

Phyllis Putt was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 13 years ago. Despite recommendations to put her into a care facility, her husband of 69 years, Neville, refuses to leave her side.

The process of Alzheimer's is a gradual one, as it slowly deteriorates neuron cells in the sufferer's brain.

The disease effects the person's ability to think, carry out everyday tasks, and remember anything.

However, despite losing a lot of her memory, Neville is still the first person Phyllis turns to.

Neville and Phyllis met through a mutual love of music and played together in an orchestra.

Neville and Phyllis met through a mutual love of music and played together in an orchestra.

"The first thing she does when she comes to bed almost is put her hand out and grab mine and squeeze it," Neville said.

"If she didn't know me it wouldn't worry me so much. But she knows me, I'm sure, and a lot of the family. I don't want to take that away from her if I can help it," Neville said.

Since 1959, the couple have been living at their house on Brois St in New Plymouth which Neville said was a better place for Phyllis to remain.

"She knew this house, being here so long, that she could find her way around almost in the dark.

"If she shifted into a home by herself she'd be lost. When she's been in rest homes on respite I've gone with her and stayed in the same place," he said.

Neville said the house used to boast a great vegetable garden and a beautiful flower bed but as Phyllis' condition worsened the garden got less attention. It now sits run down and over grown.

For the past 13 years, an average day for Neville has revolved around looking after Phyllis - making sure she doesn't get into trouble or fall over.

"She has had the odd fall and ended up in hospital with a broken bone in her wrist. But it's a matter of one-on-one care with her a lot of the time which they can't do in homes," Neville said.

With time not slowing down, Neville enlisted help with caring for Phyllis from his daughters Sheryl Vale and Janice Panchaud, and also hires carers who he pays for out of his own pocket.

Janice said the choice to keep Phyllis in the family home has been the best thing for her, although not all of her eight siblings agreed.

"Keeping mum at home has kept her going more. We have pictures up and the names under them to keep her alive," Janice said.

"When you shift people around to another place it's very upsetting for them.

"My wife sort of knows automatically where all the switches are for the lights and everything like that. She gets a bit confused sometimes but mostly she can find her way around," Neville added.

Even when offered respite care - where the government pay for a brief stay at a rest home to give those at home a chance for some free time - Neville went with Phyllis to be sure he could look after her if needed.

"That's what I want forever if I could, but I know it can't work that way," he said.

This month sees the couple clock up their 69th wedding anniversary, however they aren't doing anything to celebrate as Neville said the date holds no meaning to Phyllis now.

Looking back on the past 69 years, Neville said they had gone "mighty quick," despite spending the last 13 of those under enormous pressure.

"It's been very trying, and I've been under a lot of stress that I wasn't normally under - I still have a lot of stress really - trying to juggle things and work out what's going to happen next. You've just got to take it a day at a time, you can't make plans," Neville said.

He said despite the disease, he still feels the love Phyllis has for him, but not always.

"She biffs me sometimes," he said with a laugh.

"But that's another thing - their moods change very quickly. If I take something off her then she'll try and biff me - either by hand or get one of the dolls to throw at me, but you get to expect that."

For Neville, dealing with his wife's Alzheimer's has been a case of learning as you go. Although he had next to no knowledge about the condition 13 years ago, he said you just have to do everything you can to help.

When asked if he had any advice for those in a similar position, he said there was no way to tell, and it would vary from person to person.

"It depends on the person themselves whether they're prepared to go the extra mile and stick with it or put them in a home. I chose to stay with her. It's not easy," Neville said.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers

Citrus drive for southern friends

Donate some of your excess citrus.

The call is out for all unwanted citrus for the people of Christchurch and Dunedin.

Police paws on purr-trol

Snickers patrols the streets but has a weakness for treats.

With his on point outfits, and a habit for purr-trolling the local beat, Snickers the police cat now has his first Instagram account.

Murder in a tight-knit town video

Quinn Patterson is said to have liked guns, which he fired off "on a daily basis".

Wendy and Natanya Campbell were kind and respected. But their killer had a violent history and was "done" with life.

Rental homes risky for kids

Research from Growing Up in New Zealand's Now We Are Four report showed private rentals had significantly fewer home ...

Children living in rentals are more exposed to safety risks than those whose families own a home, study shows.


Work to clear two slips video

A slip on Evans Bay Parade, Wellington, came down on to the road. The home above has been evacuated.

Major Wellington slips trigger road closures and one home is evacuated in the Aro Valley.

Log hits worker

A forestry worker was in great pain after being struck by a log in rural Wairarapa. (File photo)

Injured worker struck by log winched out of forestry block and flown to hospital.

Winter's bite is back video

Cold Antarctic air is behind the front bringing snow to Tekapo and other parts of the South Island.

Wellington in the firing line with gale-force southerlies on the way.

The disappearing price of premium

2032016 News Photo: Marion van Dijk/Fairfax NZ

Petrol price sign at BP2go Haven Road.

Petrol stations don't show premium fuel prices anymore and it allows gouging, AA says.


Truck tips, loses load video

Emergency services at the scene of a truck roll-over in central Dunedin on Friday morning.

The truck lost its load, damaging at least three cars outside a Dunedin haberdashery shop.

'Should be red zoned'

This post-quake rebuild is in one of Christchurch's lowest-lying areas. Now it will have to go to make way for a flood ...

A newly-built home is one of 13 properties to make way for a council flood protection scheme.

Raf Manji's $1b election pitch

Independent candidate for Ilam Raf Manji has launched his election campaign on Friday.

He calls for $1b fund and Commonwealth Games for Chch in Parliament bid. 

School lock-down

Police told Broomfield School to go into lockdown on Friday morning, principal Andrew Kemp said.

Staff and pupils locked in classrooms as armed police called to domestic incident nearby. 


Migrant renters' cannabis rort

Professionally installed heat lamps and hydroponic equipment were set up in various rooms, including bedrooms, of the ...

Illegal immigrant ring allegedly caught growing commercial amounts of cannabis in rentals.

Home burns to ground

Neighbours were the first to spot the flames surging from the 30m by 15m building around 11.30am on Thursday.

Residents were in a nearby town when they heard the fire siren.

Chris Bush cold case lead

Chris Bush was shot dead in 1987 at the Red Fox Tavern.

New information reopens case of Waikato barman shot in 1987 Red Fox Tavern hold-up.

Maitland's top weekend markets

Plenty of options at a range of markets on in the Waikato to support your community and buy fresh fruit and vegetables.

Stalls brimming with goodies are popping up left, right and centre in the Waikato. Te Ahua Maitland brings you all the details.


New owners for burger joint

New Prohibition owners Andy Le and Gabby Tran will be keeping the burger restaurant much the same.

A popular New Plymouth burger joint is under new ownership but the burgers won't change.

Collecting for a tangi

The men had collected 251 paua between them.

Two men were caught with 251 paua, 191 of them undersized.

Fail and move on

New Plymouth man Paul Feltoe swam more than 32 kilometres across the Catalina Channel in July.

 A couple of weeks ago New Plymouth man Paul Feltoe got a boat from Los Angeles to Catalina Island - then swam the 32.3kms back.

Firewood running out

A roaring fire maybe a thing of the past unless you've stocked up as supplies of firewood  run out in Taranaki with ...

Stock up in summer to avoid being left out in the cold.


Wowed over WOW

Jennie Munro in her workshop with costumes that have been finalists in Wellington's international World Of Wearable Arts ...

A Palmerston North designer has made the finals of September's wearable arts show.

No intercepting emails

Horizons Regional Council chief executive Michael McCartney sees no reason to intercept emails, unlike Horowhenua ...

Council chief executives see no reason for intercepting emails - unlike Horowhenua council's boss.

Collar-dragging teacher cleared

Clive Stevens with his grandmother Maureen Stevens.

Teacher who dragged special needs student along floor did nothing wrong, investigation finds.

Back to school

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei stopped to talk with Tanika Jeffery, 14, who was learning speech writing in te reo, at ...

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei talks education at her old high school.


Car crashes into house

A house that was damaged after a car drove into it on Toi Toi St, Nelson.

A car has crashed into a Nelson home causing substantial damage.

Man critically injured

A man has critical injuries after a car hit a tree on the Coastal Highway.

A man is trapped in a car with serious injuries after a car hit a tree near Nelson.

Restructure puts kids at risk

Concerns have been raised over a proposal to consolidate the on-call crisis services in Nelson Marlborough.

Proposed restructure of child mental health could have dire consequences for vulnerable youngsters.

Grandstand gets short reprieve

The grandstand may be a drawcard for spectators again.

Golden Bay Grand Stand supporters have three months to come up with a preservation and funding plan.


'Our niche is Marlborough'

Dog Point Vineyard co-owners and event sponsors Ivan Sutherland, left, and James Healy read up for the Marlborough Book ...

With intimate venues and stunning surrounds, the Marlborough Book Festival is a little different.

Bigger planes?

Sounds Air chief executive Andrew Crawford inside the cockpit of one of the company's 9-seat Pilatus PC-12s.

Demand for flights prompts Marlborough airline to investigate "quantum leap" to larger planes.

Blenheim bemoans unfair fares

Air New Zealand said it would not be reinstating direct flights to Christchurch from Marlborough Airport.

"It's almost like we've offended Air New Zealand somehow and they're making us pay." 

Nurses to move to hub

The district nurses will have a similar amount of storage space at the health hub, the review panel says.

Where they need more staff, new technology and better communication, review finds.

South Canterbury

Region poised for milk boost

While the forecast price rise from Fonterra is good new for South Canterbury dairy farmers, regional Federated Farmers ...

Another $25m added to South Canterbury farmers' milk payout.

Rugby player jailed

Kolinio Yabia Tamanitoakula was jailed for three years, four months and two weeks.

His distressed victim was covered in mud when she ran in front of a car to get help.

Change possible - Falloon

National Party candidate Andrew Falloon met ECan representatives on Thursday, following heated public debate about the ...

Retrofitting plan still on the table, National Party candidate suggests.

Roads reopen, rain continues video

Contractors clear snow from the road at Tekapo on Thursday morning.

Roads to Tekapo reopen as schools send  students home early to avoid flooding.


Hall off to world champs

New Zealand discus thrower Marshall Hall practices ahead of the 2017 IAAF World Championships.

Invercargill discus thrower 'committed and focused' ahead of IAAF Athletics World Championships.

Ice causing crashes

10082016. News.Kavinda Herath. Southland Times/Stuff-Ice on the Winton Lorneville Highway

Police are warning drivers to take it slow and beware of ice on the roads.

House fire in south Invercargill

A house on Dalrymple St was "well ablaze" when fire crews arrived on Thursday morning.

One person is being treated for smoke inhalation following a house fire in Invercargill.

Data won't be public

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said the ministry had no intention to make information about individual fishing locations public.

Ad Feedback