A lifetime of love

A lifetime of love

As she gently takes his hand, Arlene is quick to comment, “Even after all these years, he’s my soulmate. I would never have had this incredible life without him.”

Arlene and Harold have been married for more than 60 years and exemplify the love that the couples at Montefiore’s Woollahra campus continue to have for one another.

Harold and Arlene are one of just seven couples currently residing at the Woollahra campus. Collectively, these couples have a combined 400+ years of marriage, representing multiple lifetimes of love.

Harold and Arlene’s story could have just as easily never happened – Harold was on a date with Arlene’s friend Phyllis, when he spotted Arlene with her parents. When Arlene’s mother commented on his good looks, Harold knew that he stood a chance with the shy and beautiful Arlene. However, Arlene initially played hard to get, claiming she wasn’t sure if she would be well enough to go out on Saturday night. Undeterred, Harold called every night that week to check on Arlene. Six weeks and two dates later, Arlene and Harold got engaged.

Many couples wouldn’t be able to navigate the gruelling demands of building their own business, but together Arlene and Harold built and ran a successful homewares company in South Africa. Quite simply, they are great foils for one another – she is patient and kind, he funny and charismatic. Despite all of life’s ups and downs they continue to make each other laugh and find opportunities to surprise one another.

Fay and Julian, another couple at the Montefiore Woollahra facility, had their first introduction at the cinema in Bondi Junction. They were set up on a blind date by a mutual friend after Fay was widowed from her first husband. A second marriage for both, Julian adopted Fay’s four children (aka her “little monsters”) as his own and they expanded their family with the addition of a fifth son of their own a year later after they married.

Julian is a hopeless romantic, who has written a poem for Fay’s birthday every year for the past 50 years and likes to say that his marriage to Fay was kismet. While living as a bachelor, Julian joked with a friend that he would love to live at his place in Bellevue Hill on 12 March Street, only to meet Fay years later, and discover [unbeknownst to him] that she bought the house at the same address.

Fay and Julian are a beautiful couple who routinely opened their home for people in need. They continue to serve their community at Woollahra, whether organising theatrical productions or the weekly Bingo game.

They attribute their longevity as a couple to being understanding, considerate of one another, and not holding a grudge.

For Ricky and Lionel, it was love at first sight. As Ricky recalls, “I loved his smile. He was very good looking. He wasn’t tall, but there was definitely chemistry there.” Although Ricky and Lionel had only known each other for a month, Lionel didn’t want Ricky to leave on the overseas trip she had planned with her sister, which would have taken her away from New Zealand for months. They met on July 4th in Auckland and were engaged by the end of the month.

Fast forward 66 years, four children, eight grandchildren, and one great granddaughter later, Ricky attributes their success to Lionel’s small but kind and thoughtful gestures throughout their marriage. One such example was when Ricky found a dress that she loved in a local dress shop but decided not to buy it due to the expensive price tag. When Lionel discovered Ricky’s sacrifice, he tracked down the dress at the shop and purchased it for Ricky. She discovered the coveted dress hanging in her wardrobe the next evening. Even today, Ricky gets a bit emotional telling this story and thinking back on their incredible love story.

Ricky and Lionel have weathered life’s ups and downs together – their relationship is testament to the enduring resiliency partners can show each other over a lifetime.

Beyond the common themes of love, loyalty, patience, and trust, all these couples expressed gratitude both for their partner, and for the opportunity to stay with one another at Montefiore as they continue to grow old together in the years ahead.

The staff at Montefiore promote ageing in place for couples by arranging for them to share the same room (whenever possible), facilitating quality time between partners who may be in different needs-based units, installing interconnecting doors for easy spousal visitation, and arranging regular couples’ lunches.

Moving into residential care provided these couples with choice, dignity, and well-being. More importantly, it allowed them to maintain and continue the love they’ve shared for decades.

For more information, visit montefiore.org.au

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