Platinum couple can't stay still

IDYLLIC SETTING: Murray and Alice Rowe in their Atawhai garden where they celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary last week.
IDYLLIC SETTING: Murray and Alice Rowe in their Atawhai garden where they celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary last week.

Atawhai couple Murray and Alice Rowe notched up 70 years of marriage last week.

Members of Murray and Alice's family said while they had heard of other couples being married for 70 years, a platinum wedding anniversary had to be very rare.

"In fact it's so rare you can't even buy cards for it," daughter Sharlene Baker said.

The couple received a card with a personally written message from Prime Minister John Key.

Murray, 92, and Alice, 90, had eight children and now have 15 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

They said they had enjoyed a very happy marriage and the secret for a happy marriage was to learn to give and take.

They were married in Kaitaia on January 7, 1942.

Alice, who was brought up in Northland and Murray, brought up in Hamilton, met in Auckland when Murray was in the navy.

Murray had joined the Navy in 1940 as a 19-year-old and remained there for 12 years.

"After we were married we had one week together and then I was away for six months," Murray said.

Murray started his navy career in the South Pacific but was then sent to the Mediterranean in 1942 and 1943 on board the HMS Leander in the height of World War II where he survived several close bombing encounters from enemy aircraft.

"I was then drafted on to the Achilles back in the Pacific and wound up in Tokyo for the Japanese surrender."

Murray spent a further seven years in the navy, first in England, and then in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

He then left to use his engineering background to work on aircraft maintenance on the flying boats with one of Air New Zealand's forerunners, Tasman Empire Airways Limited.

Meanwhile, Alice was busy raising the family and Murray eventually worked on boilers for Forest Products in Auckland and United Empire Box in Auckland until retiring.

"But even after retiring I went back to work (on boilers) for Kiwi Packaging for another 10 years."

Alice and Murray spent much of their spare time travelling around and staying in a caravan.

Alice said it was deceptively difficult for other motorists to overtake their Ford Fairmont towing a large caravan.

"I put a notice on the back which said: ‘We are over 40 feet (12.5 metres) long and mum's driving - so look out!'," Murray said. "We used to get a lot of friendly toots for that."

When the children left home and Murray eventually stopped working the couple spent a lot of time travelling around New Zealand in a motorhome.

"We came to Nelson 13 years ago because we have family here. We turned the clock back 20 years by coming down here. It's wonderful."

Murray said both he and Alice had a passion for gardening although Alice had also found time to do some crochet work and to make porcelain dolls.

The couple have an exceptionally attractive garden nestled in by the waterfront 5km north of Nelson.

Murray still does the gardening and even repainted the house last year.

"I don't think of 92 as being old," he said.

"But you have to have a reason to get out of bed each morning and that's why I always like to have a project to work on.

"One of our friends even referred to us as recycled teenagers," he joked.