By Brendan Rees
It was meant to be a day of hugs and kisses but a Berwick couple are nonetheless happy they were able to celebrate a major milestone with family.
John Evans, 94, and his 89-year-old wife Valda met at a Saturday night dance at the Dandenong Town Hall – and have been inseparable since as they celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.
With social distancing in place, the couple’s family organised a surprise morning tea at their home which included scones and coffee, balloons, and “lots of hand sanitiser” on Wednesday 20 May.
“Interestingly this isn’t the only surprise celebration they’ve had during restrictions with Valda turning 89 recently and opening her front door to find a surprise tea party in the front garden which had been set up by her grandchildren,” the couple’s grandson Heath Evans said.
Heath said the love birds have been coping well during the pandemic with John regularly exercising and lifting weights while Val walks a few laps in their backyard daily.
“John was riding a bike and running into his 80s, is renowned as one of the fittest and healthiest people you’ll ever come across and was a local legend amongst the children of North Dandenong who would see him on his daily run,” he said.
Val is renowned for her “beautiful chocolate sponge cake” among her grandchildren as well as her “hospitality and always having the house spotless”.
“As a family we’ve set them up with an iPad and enjoy a weekly zoom call, which has taken some training and a custom designed instruction manual,” Heath said.
The couple married at St James Anglican Church in Dandenong, aged 19 and 24, on 20 May 1950. Starting her career at Parton’s Dandenong Store, Valda Evans was employed by Lonsdale Fashion in Dandenong for many years and was later a sales assistant at Lorna Fashion in Noble Park.
Mr Evans retired 30 years ago after working at HJ Heinz Company, Dandenong, for 30 years as an electrician.
They have two daughters: Judith Tomlin who lives in Berwick with her sons Sean, 27, and Callum, 21; and Janine Evans, 63, who also lives in Berwick and has a son Heath who lives in Ashburton.
After marrying, the couple lived in a bungalow while John – an “all-round handy man” – built their home in Dandenong over seven years. They then moved to Dandenong North for 31 years before living in Berwick.
The couple are dedicated to their Christian faith, living a very clean lifestyle, which has been key to their health and their weekly attendance at Church which is something they never miss.
And in terms of their secret to a happy marriage the couple say it’s a “bliss and hiss. You can’t agree all the time.”
“Like dancing it’s a partnership.”