Patience a key ingredient in 60-year marriage

Harold and Jeannette Cloete on their wedding day 60 years ago.

For 60 years Harold Cloete has enjoyed supper cooked by his wife, Jeannette, and they have been by each other’s sides through thick and thin. This they said was because of three things – love, prayer, and patience.

The couple met at the Gleemore Baptist Church while in their teens, as they both attended service there. At the time Ms Cloete was seeing someone else and Mr Cloete delivered the hand-written letters to her from her boyfriend.

“I worked so I took the bus every day and I noticed someone following me to the bus stop and it was him on his bicycle,” she said.

As time went on, he became fond of her and while away at a youth camp, he asked her to be his girlfriend.

Ms Cloete said what attracted her to her husband was that he was neat, tidy, and polite.

Seven years later the pair married at the Gleemore town hall and had a big white wedding with 300 people in attendance.

“I had a very strict father and he didn’t like the idea of Harold sitting there all the time, so we got tired of courting and walking around in the road and decided to get married,” she said.

The couple moved to a flatlet in Belgravia and today they stay on the same premises but have moved to the front house.

Three years after they married they had their only daughter named Sharon, but when she was 35 she died in a car accident, leaving two sons behind. The couple also has one great-grandson.

Ms Cloete said the death of their daughter brought the couple closer together. Asked what he loves the most about his wife, Mr Cloete said: “She takes care of me all the time. When people ask me how I have managed to stay in a marriage so long I say, ‘we love the Lord and that has carried us a long way’.”

Ms Cloete also said she and her husband always prayed together which is what got them through the tough times.

“One of my fondest memories is when we went on our trip to Mauritius by boat. It was during the apartheid era and while on the boat this group of white men walked up to us and asked who sponsored us and if we were with our boss and I said, ‘no we are our own boss’ and they couldn’t believe that we were there on our own,” she said.

She said being a working wife wasn’t easy but she prepared her meals the night before and she and her husband always had supper at 5.30pm. Weekends away, and family braais is what the couple, both aged 85, enjoyed doing over the years.

Ms Cloete is also the founder of the Happy Hour Seniors Club which she established in July 1996.

She said the reason couples get divorced so quickly is because they have no patience and can’t bear the challenges that come with marriage.

“It’s not always easy but my mother-in-law always said that if you are fighting over money, put a pot of water on the stove and boil it and that warmth will fill your house and no one will notice that there is nothing to eat and before you go to sleep God will ensure that your tummy is filled,” she said.

Mr Cloete said: “Trust the Lord, always pray together and all will go well.”