65 years of happiness

Reflecting on 65 years of happy marriage, Donalda and Jim Mitchell look at the congratulatory card they received from King Charles and Queen Camilla.
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Common interests have kept Donalda and Jim Mitchell’s marriage strong for 65 years.

The couple, aged 84 and 87 respectively, say that has been the key to their successful relationship.

‘‘We have shared so much in common over the years, especially in regards to sports,’’ Jim said.

In addition, their marriage had been one of partnership.

‘‘Taking time to understand each other, show compassion, be honest, trusting and showing helpfulness,’’ Donalda said.

The couple knew each other well before falling in love. They went to secondary school in Invercargill, and travelled there each day on the same train.

Then one night at a Presbyterian Church Saturday night dance, they decided they liked each other as more than just friends.

‘‘Our romance blossomed, ’’ Jim said.

Marrying four years later in Bluff, the couple lived in the mainland’s southernmost town as Jim’s work as an engineer saw him become part of the planning and building of the Bluff Island Harbour. Their common interests there included Sea Scouts, athletics and the yachting club.

The couple later moved to Geraldine as Jim took up a position with the Geraldine County Council, then to Ashburton as he took up a position with the Ashburton County Council in 1973.

The couple, who have three children, have lived in Ashburton ever since, where they enjoy travelling together, and attending exercise classes.

‘‘We’re almost locals, having lived here in the one house for 51 years,’’ Jim said.

He worked for the county council in Ashburton, which later became the district council, until his retirement in 1999.

As well as undertaking activities together, he and Donalda have supported each other in their individual sporting and other pursuits.

In Ashburton, Donalda resurrected the Hampstead Netball Club and for her work was made a life member. In Geraldine, she had joined the netball club and kindergarten and school committee.

On retirement, Jim took up golf with the Tinwald Golf Club and attended keep fit classes at the college. He joined a gang – the Cross St gang who enjoy getting together to play the banjo. Jim also plays guitar, likes singing in the community choir and has had many years of entertaining through the Friendship and Entertainment Club (formerly the Ashburton Savage Club).

The Mitchells have been around New Zealand on camping holidays, and have travelled overseas.

‘‘We enjoyed a three-month tour through places such as England, Scotland, Wales and the continent with 38 Australians and seven fellow Kiwis,’’ Donalda said.

About 10 years ago, Jim had a fall tearing the tendons in his shoulder. Given his age, surgeons wouldn’t operate. He had to give up golf and didn’t want to procrastinate, so the couple joined an exercise group at the EA Networks Centre pool. For eight years now they have enjoyed being among a group of about 25 meeting regularly for swimming. Members recently held a lunch to celebrate the couple’s 65th wedding anniversary.

Jim and Donalda Mitchell’s wedding photo

Their family held a dinner on the evening of May 16, it was 65 years to the day since they were married. This followed a long weekend with family at Paraparaumu last month. They were joined by their two daughters who live in Ashburton and son who lives in New Plymouth and their families. Donalda and Jim are proud grandparents of eight grandchildren, one great grandchild and another on the way.

While some of the family enjoyed a zip lining experience at the holiday, Jim and Donalda assured The Ashburton Courier they had not partaken in the rides.

Among cards congratulating them on their wedding anniversary, is one from King Charles and Queen Camilla.

‘‘We received a card on our 60th anniversary from the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. We aren’t sure we will receive one from Prince William and Princess Catherine when they become King and Queen as we may not be around then,’’ Donalda said.

The king or queen of the time sends messages of congratulations for 60th, 65th and 70th wedding anniversaries, and every year thereafter.