By Mick Jensen
John French reckons couples struggle to reach six years of marriage these days, so he’s rather proud of the fact that he and wife Bev have notched up an impressive 60 years.
The Tinwald couple celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on February 20.
John, who is 82, and Bev (nee Rogers), who is a year younger, were married at St Peter’s, Timaru on a Saturday.
After the wedding ceremony they went on a road trip north, borrowing the Austin A40 of John’s brother Jim.
Arriving on the coast south of Kaikoura, the newlyweds jumped out of the car to enjoy the view and felt a violent shaking of the car. It was a sizeable earthquake and further along the route a big boulder had come to rest on the road.
“If we hadn’t have stopped, we could have been under the boulder, and it would have been the end of the marriage before it had even begun,” said John.
The Frenchs returned to start life as a married couple in Ashburton.
A family quickly followed, with four children, three girls and boy, born to the couple before either had reached the age of 30.
Today the couple have 11 grandchildren and six great grandchildren as well.
John was a mechanic by trade and worked with trucks and cars. He drove his first traction engine at the age of 12 and has always had a love of machinery. He enjoyed stints at Burnetts, CE Bailey Ltd, Gluyas and Mid Canterbury Transport.
An accident in the pit at Mead Motors during a warrant of fitness check left him with a broken pelvis and other injuries.
He also lost his sense of smell and was forced to give up his profession.
A long association with the Ashburton Railway Preservation Society and Tinwald Domain Board earned John a community service award in 2005.
He is still the farming convener for the Plains Museum and helps co-ordinate annual pea and potato selling fundraisers.
Bev was born and brought up in Timaru and was a bagpipe player in Timaru Ladies Pipe Band in her teens. She was a head sewer and overlocker at Tekau in her home town.
For over 20 years she has volunteered her time to play the piano at local rest homes.
“We’ve had our ups and downs over the years, and a few arguments. But, there’s been no fighting and we’ve stuck together through it all,” said Bev.
The Frenchs celebrated their 60 years of marriage with family at a function at the Devon Tavern.