Nearly 70 years after she married her husband, Ann Breaks can remember the day she met him.
That’s because that was the day she fell in love.
Following a tip from her older brother’s friend, who suggested the then-16-year-old go down to see his younger brother, Bill, Ann pedalled her bike to the gas station where her future husband worked.
“I took a peek to see what he looked like,” she said, adding that it took a few bike rides to the gas station before she could muster up the courage to speak to the 18-year-old. “Finally, I went down to talk to him and he seemed interested.
“The next time I saw him, it was him who had come on his bike.”
The longtime love story of the South Surrey couple continued with a first date that included all of Bill’s family, piled into his father’s car for a trip to the cinema – “you didn’t go on a date at 16 without a chaperone” – to the couple’s wedding day on April 22, 1944.
The details of the Breaks’ life together drew the interest of Harrison MacDonald and Christabel Shaler, who were both participating in the Reel Youth and Revera Age is More film program last month.
The two were among a group of youth that partnered with seniors from Revera seniors residences to produce short films.
“Just in talking to Ann, it became pretty apparent that was going to be the main focus. She had centred so much of her life around the marriage and so much of what she was talking about and saying – just in terms of her experiences and her memories – so much of them dealt with her marriage and with Bill,” MacDonald, 18, said. “It was such a strong relationship between the two of them that you wanted to capture it.”
Along with other videos from the program, Bill and Ann’s story was submitted to the United Way’s third annual Care to Change video competition, where B.C. residents make “change-making videos focusing on issues facing the Lower Mainland.”
“I didn’t realize why there were taping our story, after (I found out about the theme) it was obvious why they picked our story – because it’s about caring. And we’ve been caring for each other for so long,” Ann, 90, said. “Everyone has a different story. Ours was a love story. And I didn’t think of it that way, but in the end it was.”
Ann and Bill’s story impressed organizers, garnering Shaler and MacDonald a third-place win in the adult category out of 71 entries.
As a surprise, the Breaks were not told they had won until they walked the red carpet at the awards ceremony at Robson Square in Vancouver on Feb. 16.
“We were told we were nominated, and I thought, well, nominated doesn’t mean you win,” Ann said. “When we got there, everyone was congratulating us, and I thought why are they making all the fuss.”
With Stuart Moore’s Old-fashioned Love playing in the background, Ann and Bill’s love story unfolded on the screen for dozens to see.
Since then, Ann noted she’s been asked how her and Bill maintain such a strong relationship.
“I think it’s that we’re both easygoing and both of us have worked really hard. We didn’t have time to fight. We were busy raising four sons and working on the farm for a while, then we had a business,” she said. “We had a good vibe, let’s say. We did things together for our whole life.”
Both Shaler and MacDonald said the experience was one that had a huge impact, with Shaler forming a strong bond with Ann, often visiting her for lunch after the project wrapped up.
“She treats me like family,” Shaler, 31, said. “People will ask, ‘is that your granddaughter?’ And she’ll say, ‘Kind of!’”
And for MacDonald, the experience showcased the importance of appreciating the little things.
“They may have not lived this extraordinary, magnificent, exciting life, but they’ve lived a life that is important to them and the people they love, and I think there is value in that and I think it’s fascinating on its own,” he said. “For me, to be a part of that process and validating someone’s experiences through an art form like film, is extremely gratifying.”
To view the video, visit www.caretochange.ca/change-videos/the-love-story-of-ann-and-bill-breaks/