In the South
It is 60 years since city couple Leen and Mattie Bakker married in Southland, a day they'll not forget.
But close in the unforgettable stakes was Mattie's arrival from Holland to be met at the Christchurch airport in October 1953 by her fiance Leen - and by hundreds of others who had come to see the final of the famous London to Christchurch air race, won by the Royal Dutch airline KLM.
Dutch girls engaged to young men who had emigrated to New Zealand a year earlier were flown out by their government on the race plane, a former DC6 cargo transporter re-jigged to accommodate 64 passengers, among them affianced brides like Mattie.
The progress of the bridal plane was monitored with great excitement on both sides of the world with the reunion of the young couples widely recorded and reported.
Four years ago Mrs Bakker saw a documentary film made of the flight, and it brought back a host of memories.
Leen, then working at the Brydone dairy factory where he had scored a house, was on hand to claim his bride and they married within a few days at the Brydone Church, Mr and Mrs Bill McDonald of nearby Bellfield farm hosting the day for them, generous hospitality they have never forgotten.
Their lives here have been happy and successful, their sons Ronnie and David, daughters Patricia Chapman and Gillian Bowie, settled in the south, blessing them with grandchildren and great grandchildren, many involved with the family grocery business, the Plaza, set up by their parents forty years ago in Yarrow St.
Leen Bakker attended a gardening school one day a week when he left school to work for his dad a grower and seller of fruit and vegetables in the Dutch province of Zeeland.
Coming to New Zealand he began gardening, in land and glasshouses at Myross Bush, selling his produce door to door throughout the south, in a van whereas in Holland he had started out with a horse and cart.
Mattie spent four years working in a bank in Holland, becoming engaged to Leen the day before he left for New Zealand, flying out 12 months later to marry him here.
They brought these practical and financial skills to New Zealand, skills which enabled them to dev elope a very good business which their family are able to carry on.
Leen still tends a great garden at his Terrace street home, keeping his family in fresh vegetables the year round.
He has spent time in Lions and enjoyed he camaraderie of fundraisers like Kevin Wall.
Retired now, a fall having compromised his mobility, he gardens on his knees, blessing the long reach his height has given him.
Mattie has no family in Holland, Leen has three siblings still, but they agree their family is here now.
On Saturday, they will sit down to a festive lunch at the Beach House in Riverton with all their family about them - children and spouses, grand children, some with spouses and great grand children too.
And they will tell the story of Opa, proposing to Mattie the day before he set sail, coming here in July 1952 on the Subayak and Oma flying out in October 1953 in a great air race London to Christchurch and then marrying in Brydone on October 22, 1953.
The rest is the history they know.
- © Fairfax NZ News