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Love blossomed at the beach

Retirement Living Stories

IRT residents Wilma and John Sanderson celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year. Here they share their story.

08 November 2020
resident couple
Wilma and John Sanderson at IRT Tarrawanna Gardens today.
“There was never anyone else.”
Wilma Sanderson
IRT Tarrawanna Gardens resident

Stanwell Park Beach set the scene for Wilma and John Sanderson’s first meeting some 64 years ago – and they haven’t been apart since.

On 19 March the couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary and shared with The Good Life some of their early memories.

“I lived in Stanwell Park and John’s parents had a holiday house there,” Wilma explains.

But John didn’t live too far away – he was up the hill at Helensburgh. “He used to ride a pushbike down to see me, then a motorbike and then a car.”

Their first meeting was when they were both 15 at Stanwell Park Beach’s lagoon.

“I still remember John’s face when I first saw him when he surfaced from the lagoon,” Wilma says.

The pair were married in 1960, when they were 19, at the old Helensburgh Catholic Church (which is no longer there).

“There was never anyone else,” Wilma says of their union.

They honeymooned at the Stanwell Park holiday house. “We had no money and the car had blown up the week before the wedding,” John recalls.

They lived at Helensburgh for four or five years before moving to Thirroul, by which time they had two children, Tony and Leonie.

John started working at the garage at the bottom of Bulli Pass in his late teens and eventually they went on to buy the business – which they ran for 28 years.

Wilma and John were also franchisees of the now demolished BP garage at Austinmer and during that time had their third child, Roslyn.

Wilma and John, age 15, at Stanwell Park Beach.

A serious work-related back injury in 1984 meant John spent nearly 12 months in rehabilitation, had several operations and struggled with ongoing pain. Unfortunately he injured his back again in 1993. “So we had to get out of the business,” he explains.

They moved to Albion Park in 2000 and then into IRT Tarrawanna Gardens in 2013.

When asked about being married for more than six decades Wilma says when looking back it seems like such a short time. “My memories are so vivid,” she says. “It goes in a flash so be kind to one another and tell the truth.”

John says it’s important not to go to bed when you are cranky with each other.

They celebrated their diamond anniversary with friends on a cruise in March. “We had a marvellous time but it was cut short because of COVID,” John says.

The lockdown also meant their celebrations back on land were cancelled but their children made sure it was a special day – delivering flowers and seafood platters to help them celebrate.

Today they have seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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