Love is in the air at Mercy Place

By Liz Mellino

With Valentine's Day today, love is definitely in the air across the Goulburn Valley. We visited Mercy Place in Shepparton yesterday to speak to some residents about their relationships and what they believe the secret to a long marriage is. With more than 250 years of marriage between them, these four couples have spent more Valentine's Days together than most. Liz Mellino sat down with each of them to talk about their lives.

The News caught up with four Mercy Place couples in the spirit of Valentine's Day.

It’s Valentine’s every day

Margaret and Percy Richardson - 62 years of marriage

With 62 years of marriage between them, you would not believe Margaret and Percy Richardson tied the knot just six months after meeting. Mrs Richardson was just shy of turning 21 when she got married, with the couple inseparable since.

When asked what the secret of marriage was Mrs Richardson had a small chuckle to herself.

‘‘He doesn’t argue with me and he closes his ears when it suits him,’’ she said with a smirk.

‘‘Marriage is a two-way street, give and take and talk over your differences.’’

A little give and take is secret

Mavis and Jim Shea - 58 years of marriage

With 58 years of marriage under their belts, Mavis and Jim Shea are used to spending every day with each other.

The couple now lives two doors down from each other at Mercy Place where it is only a short walk to keep each other company.

Looking back over their marriage, Mrs Shea said she was grateful for many things.

‘‘Having our children was a blessing and the fact that we’ve got to this age, he’s 81 and I’m 80, the fact that we’re still together, I suppose in this day and age marriages don’t seem to last that long,’’ she said.

‘‘The secret would be perseverance, give and take.’’

Mrs Shea said they did not celebrate Valentine’s Day, however, she remembered one year when they won a competition to spend an evening at the Parklake.

‘‘I won a competition one year which was dinner at the Parklake and an overnight stay, that was probably a highlight of Valentine’s Day,’’ she said.

‘‘I also remember one year he had a bad accident with his back, he was in care in Melbourne and I did send him a Valentine’s card, that was probably the only time.’’

Hand in hand through life

Elizabeth and Jack Barnes - 66 years of marriage

After meeting at a dance at the Star Theatre in Shepparton, Elizabeth and Jack Barnes have been inseparable ever since.

Soon after meeting, the young couple tied the knot in a beautiful church ceremony in 1953.

They were in their early 20s when they tied the knot.

Sixty-six years later the Barneses believe there is no secret to marriage, but they admit they were fortunate to find each other.

‘‘We got on all right, well we got on very well actually ... it’s been good,’’ Mrs Barnes said.

‘‘We were quite happy, anyhow you just support one another and we got on smoothly.’’

The pair said they kept themselves busy throughout their marriage, living and working on a dairy farm for many years.

While farm life was tough for the couple, Mr Barnes said they ensured they spent nearly every day with each other.

‘‘We’ll spend Valentine’s Day together, we’re together nearly every day, that’s what it was ... 67 years yep, that’s a long time,’’ Mr Barnes said.

The eternal flame

Lesley and Jim Brandreth - 67 years of marriage

Lesley and Jim Brandreth celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary in November last year.

It is clear the couple has an unbreakable bond, spending every day in each other’s company.

The pair can usually be found sitting on a park bench in the garden at Mercy Place, watching the traffic hand in hand.

‘‘We come and sit here all the time, we sit and watch the traffic, we spend our days together,’’ Mrs Brandreth said.

The couple met in Rosebud at the local dance hall while they were both on holidays. Jim was just 19 at the time when he first laid eyes on Lesley who was 21.

Four years later, the couple tied the knot in a ceremony surrounded by their family and closest friends.

Both working as teachers, they ended up retiring in Wangaratta before their daughter and son-in-law encouraged them to move to Shepparton.

Looking back, Mrs Brandreth said the highlight had been raising their three children.

While she believed there was no secret to marriage, she said keeping busy helped them through the years.

‘‘There is no secret as far as we’re concerned, we just kept busy we were always doing something,’’ Mrs Brandreth said.

‘‘Make sure the person you marry you can live with and to do that you must have respect and love for them.’’