LIKE the opening of a romance novel, it was “love at first sight” for Bruce Hawkins when he spotted his now-wife Maureen at a St Paul’s youth group in the early 1960s.
On the back of a truck with a group of churchgoers carolling around the streets of Sale, the pair’s eyes met and sparks flew.
Fifty years later and the spark is still there, as the couple have forged a strong relationship built around family, farming and friendship.
The pair retains a strong connection to St Paul’s Anglican Church, marrying at the cathedral on February 10, 1968, and remaining regular attendees for many years, until family and work commitments slowed them down.
After marrying, the couple honeymooned at Pambula Beach Caravan Park in New South Wales, driving an Austin and pulling a cute, pumpkin-style caravan — the ultimate travel accessory of the 1960s.
They returned to live on their 404 hectare farm at Seaspray, and although both in their 70s, the fit and youthful-looking pair still work hard running beef cows and sheep, with occasional casual help.
Maureen, then a piano teacher who later studied nursing at Gippsland Base Hospital when in her 40s, said marriage was about entering a commitment to each other, and weathering the pressures of life and reality.
“We have always been good friends and companions to each other and always considered each other,” she said.
“As in any relationship you have differences, but rather than throw up your hands and walk away, you have to talk about things and sort it out.
“We look at our achievements, our children and grandchildren, and they are more important to us than all material things in life.”
Maureen and Bruce are proud parents to Geoffrey, 49, and Cheryl, 45, who describe them as “fantastic” parents and wonderful grandparents to their 11 grandchildren, “ready to listen at any time” and always having a bowl full of lollies and chocolates for the little ones.
To celebrate their anniversary, Maureen and Bruce will take a nostalgic trip back to Pambula Beach Caravan Park, but this time sharing the experience with 21 of their family members.