'Being friends' key to long-lasting marriage

00:29, Jan 23 2013
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Loving couple: Ken and Stancie Bruce with their dog Teddy.

Sometimes crossing your fingers works, as Ken Bruce found out when he wanted to marry Stancie.

With some trepidation, Mr Bruce approached his soon-to-be father-in-law, Mr Stone, to ask for Stancie's hand.

"In the old days you had to face up to the father," he said.

"It was a bit terrifying actually but I'd had a telegram from Stancie's sister who was on our side.

"The telegram said, ‘Good luck. Bark worse than bite'. He [the father] said, ‘Can you keep her?' I crossed my fingers behind my back and said, ‘Yes'."

Ken and Stancie Bruce have just celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in New Plymouth.

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When asked what the secret was to a long marriage Stancie quickly responded with, "being friends".

She believes that having similar interests, like sport, helped.

"I think also things like tolerance and patience," said Ken.

"We don't get uptight with each other over anything. We don't always agree."

Stancie added, "We've never had a serious row, ever."

The pair met in 1943 while they were both training in their hometown at Wellington Teachers' College.

"We were playing tennis against each other, doubles. At some stage we swapped partners and that was that."

It may have been love at first sight but it didn't stop Stancie from going to Dunedin for a year while focusing her studies on physical education while Ken stayed in Wellington.

"We wrote eight-page letters to each other every week," Stancie said.

They married in 1948 at Old St Paul's in Wellington. As well as having a family the couple worked at various North Island schools including several in New Plymouth.

Ken worked his way up the ranks and eventually became principal at Welbourn and Fitzroy schools.

Stancie worked at Sacred Heart Girls' College for seven years as a physical education teacher. During that time one of her highlights was taking a netball team to a Catholic schools' netball tournament. Both years, 1970 and 1971, the teams came out on top for their grade.

Then, for more than 20 years, Ken worked as a Ministry of Education inspector of schools based in Auckland. When he retired, the couple moved back to New Plymouth about 20 years ago.

The couple have three children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren with another on the way.

Although the actual date of their anniversary was on January 14, they celebrated on Saturday, January 19. The event was at the New Plymouth Old Boys' Rugby Club and attended by 58 guests, mostly family.

Taranaki Daily News