Val & Don - Still the One - Newcastle

When White first got in contact with me and asked me if they could feature my husbands grandparents Val & Don in issue 27 of their beautiful magazine I was so thrilled. It's not often that work means spending an afternoon lunch with your nan & pop so it was really special to capture these special moments that mean the most. It is with much much love that I am sharing this with you today.

We conducted a little interview with Val & Don after lunch so make sure to scroll to the very end to read all about life and love after 60+ years of marriage. To start things off  Dan wanted to share some of his own memories and thoughts.

Some of the fondest memories I have of my childhood are of spending weekends at my grandparent's farm in Glen Martin. My brother and I would spend our days helping Pop with the gardening, cooking with Nan, and learning how to fish, make camp fires, or play any sport we could think of. The farm was a special place for us growing up, and it was all the more special because it was such an important place for our family. My grandparents moved there in the mid 1980s, and we spent every Christmas, Easter and most birthdays there with them. They were the heads of a large, close family, and all of us looked forward to spending time together with them at the farm.

Unfortunately, in the early 2000s they had to move - the farm was too big to look after, and they moved in to Newcastle to be closer to family. It is clear to see how fond their memories of this place are - a large painting of the property sits proudly in the most prominent place on the lounge room wall. They still host family events, and they still keep up their gardens. Pop grows fruit and vegetables, and Nan still cooks a mean roast dinner. In 2012 we held a 60th Wedding anniversary for them at their home, and all their friends and family came. It was great for us all to be able to give back some of the love and nurturing we had received from them over the years. They are an example to all of us, and show that through hard work and dedication, we can all live long, happy lives surrounded by people who love us.   

-Dan Smee


Q – Where did you both live when you were younger?

VAL –I lived in Barraba.

DON – Gravesend which is between Moree and Inverell.

Q – When and where did you first meet? How did your relationship develop?

VAL – In Sydney, in about 1951

DON – Yep, that’s right

VAL – We played tennis together

DON – Yep, we played a lot of tennis!

VAL – And Don, you had a motorbike, and I rode on the back of the motorbike

DON – She did

VAL – I worked in a woollen mill during the day, but I also worked in a café at night and I first met Don because he would come and have his tea there every night.

Q – Don, what did you have for tea?

DON – Oh you know, the same sort of things that most people got, steak and three veg and what have you. I went there every night to see her.

Q – When did you get married

VAL – In September 1952, 20th of September 1952

Q – Describe your wedding day

DON – It was at night time.

VAL – It was at night time because Don played tennis in the afternoon. We had a church ceremony, Wesley Chapel in Castlereagh St in Sydney, and then we had a reception in a Hall at Enmore where we lived. I suppose there might have been 50 people there.

DON – Val's parents came, and some others from her family. My father died when he was about 50, so he wasn’t there.

Q – Val, what was your dress like?

VAL – White satin, a little bit of lace at the neck, Very simple, classical dress.

Q – And Don’s suit?

DON – A Black suit. Again very traditional.

Q – Where did you have your honeymoon? Was there any particular reason?

DON – The Blue Mountains, and from there, we went on to visit Val’s family

VAL – There was no particular reason. We just thought it would be nice.

Q – Did you have any children?

VAL – We have three children. Robert who is an accountant, Brian who worked as a union official, and Janelle who is a school teacher.

Q – Do you have any grandchildren?

VAL – We have 4 grand children, and 2 adopted grandchildren. We have Steven and Jacqueline from Robert’s family, we have Ben and Dan from Janelle’s family, and Brian’s partner Jane has two daughters Angie and Lucy.

Q – Any great grandchildren?

VAL – Yes we have 4 – Cooper and Jessica who are Steven’s children, and Lara who is Jaqueline’s daughter, and she also has a step-daughter, Alex.

Q – What has been your biggest achievement as a couple?

VAL – I would have to say our family.

Q – What are some of the challenges you have faced in your marriage?

VAL – One of our sons was born with a twisted foot, but other than that no terribly difficult things so far. We are very lucky.

DON – Val's mother used to say to me “You’ll look after her, won’t you?” and I would say to her “oh, she’ll be right”. (laughter)

Q – Do you have any tips on how to overcome any challenges that arise or how to have such a great married life?

VAL – I think it's important to be with your family a lot, spend a lot of time with them.

DON – Yes, I agree.

Q – What would you say to anyone wanting to have a long and happy marriage like yours?

VAL – Learn to accept things as they come, don’t get upset over small things. Cherish each other.