SwanCare Residents, John and Veronica Bates, celebrated 65 years of marriage in May.
SwanCare Residents, John and Veronica Bates, celebrated 65 years of marriage in May. They marked the special occasion by having a home cooked lunch together at John’s SwanCare unit with their daughter Cathie. John made a beautiful lunch from scratch with all the trimmings including crumbed lamb cutlets, potatoes, peas, beans, and gravy.
Reminiscing on their time together, John said they first met in a peculiar way. “I knew my father-in-law, Laurie, for around three years before I even knew he had a daughter - Veronica - the girl I married 65 years ago!” says John.
In fact, John met his father-in-law in the army. John had been called up for the very first Australian National Service and after three months of training, was assigned to the Army Reserves for five years. “I was a signal sergeant in an artillery unit after my training,” John says. “Laurie was my instructor and we got on remarkably well.”
Every Sunday was visitor’s day, and the buses would arrive from Melbourne to Puckapunyal and Seymour. “National servicemen weren’t allowed to drink at the time even though they were 18 years of age and over, and legally able to,” remembers John. “They also weren’t able to vote, but they were able to do national service!”
“One particular time, Laurie scrounged a keg of beer from somewhere and planted it out of the way,” John said. “His wife and daughter were coming to visit, and Laurie says to me, “do you think you could look after my daughter for the day? She’s not bad fun.”
One of the other signal sergeants who was a good friend of John’s had just got engaged and his fiancé came to visit so they decided to spend the day all together. “We all squeezed into his ute and that’s where it all started!” John says.
When John met Veronica, he was 20 and she was 16 going on 17. “We courted for about 18 months and eventually got married, but it was a bit of a catastrophe really - Veronica was Roman Catholic and I was Presbyterian.”
At the time marrying between religions was frowned upon and sometimes forbid. “One night, her parish Priest rolled up at the front door and called Veronica and Laurie outside,” said John. “He told them he wasn’t going to let her marry me and in his words: ‘Here’s three boys, take your pick and I’ll get them married now!’ But Veronica stood her ground.”
Veronica wanted to marry John in her own church of her own religion. Eventually, after a couple of false hopes, they found a priest that would marry them. They exchanged vows in the vestry - a little office on the side of the church – as they were unable to marry at the alter due to differing religions.
Malcolm, their son, was born 10 months later, obviously conceived on their honeymoon which had tongues wagging. “We had three kids in four years,” John says, “and in 1962, looking for new opportunities, the five of us boarded a plane in Melbourne bound for Perth.”
Accommodation was tough back then. You couldn’t rent a house in Perth if you had kids - people didn’t want kids in their houses. But property was cheap, and they ended up buying a house in Cloverdale where they lived for more than 30 years.
For the next 25 years, John worked doing various jobs at Transperth and Veronica worked as a telephonist/receptionist at Snap Instant Print. “In 1989, at 56 years of age, my doctor, wife and kids decided I was going to have to retire for health reasons,” said John. “Veronica and I continued to volunteer at various places though, including at the SES for 18 years together.”
John and Veronica moved into our separate SwanCare units in 2016. And in 2020, Veronica moved into SwanCare Tandara for respite and then into SwanCare Ningana for fulltime care. “She had a bad spell in hospital and needed respite,” said John. “She got used to being looked after so well and decided to stay on.”
SwanCare’s campus suits the couple well as John gets the buggy to take him to visit when he can. “I visit her two to three times a week depending on the weather and how my health is,” John says.
What’s the secret to long lasting marriage? John believes communication is key. “Veronica and I made a promise that we would never go to bed without settling an argument and we’ve kept that promise. We’ve also never disagreed in front of the children. We’ve disagreed many times, but never in front of the kids.”
John has such beautiful things to say about their life together. “I thank her for all her love and support for over 65 years,” said John. We have 3 kids (Malcolm, Cathie, and Vicki), 7 grandkids and 6 great-grandkids. We all keep in touch and there are no arguments. I consider us to be very lucky!”
What a beautiful story – Thanks for sharing, John! We wish you and Veronica many more happy years together.