It was a celebration delayed – but just as enthusiastically greeted by well-wishers for all that.
Roy and Sylvia Valentine marked the 70th anniversary of their wartime wedding June 3, with a quiet dinner in their present home, Rosemary Heights Seniors Village.
The initial event last month was low-key for good reason, their daughter, Lynn Foden, explained.
Sylvia, 89, who recently encountered some health problems, had been in Peace Arch Hospital for a spell.
“Fortunately they allowed her out so that she could have dinner with dad,” Foden said.
Back to full health by June 22, she was ready to participate in a more full celebration with some 40 friends and family – and Roy, 92, of course – with framed greetings from the Queen and the Governor General prominently featured.
Waiting is nothing new for the couple, who put up with all the rigors of wartime and a blackout of information just prior to D-Day when planning their nuptials in 1944 in the small town of Irlam, between Manchester and Warrington in England.
At the time of their wedding, Roy, then 22, from the neighbouring village of Cadishead, was serving as a signalman in the Royal Marines, while his fiancée, Sylvia Mellor, then 19, was serving in the womens’ Auxiliary Territorial Service (A.T.S.) near Sheffield.
“I was on radar on a gunsite,” she said.
Roy was on light duties at the time after breaking his wrist during a training exercise in Wales – fortunately, as it turned out, because he might otherwise have been involved in the first wave of the invasion.
“We had a job to get leave,” Sylvia remembered. “You had to request marriage leave three months prior to the event, and I didn’t know until Thursday night at 11 o’clock that I could go home on Friday – and we were supposed to be married on Saturday. Roy only got home Friday night.”
“It wasn’t important to them – it was only important to us,” Roy commented.
“D-Day was coming up,” Sylvia said. “We knew something was coming but we didn’t know what was happening. If we’d planned it any later, we wouldn’t have been able to get married.”
The couple had met two years before, when Roy was still working at the local co-op’s butcher shop during wartime meat rationing. Sylvia, who lost her father when she was eight, was helping her mum raise her two brothers.
“I took to her – I thought she was beautiful,” Roy said, and Sylvia kept finding reasons to come back to the shop.
“I think she was after the best cuts,” Foden laughed.
Roy stayed in the service until the end of the war, after which he went into the building trade as a carpenter. The couple settled in Irlam, not too far from where they married, and had three children, Lynn, David and Ian.
After a sojourn in South Wales, they came to Canada via Australia, where David and his wife and two children emigrated in the late 1970s. Roy and Sylvia followed, in 1983, moving to the Perth area (they now have two great-grandchildren in Australia).
In the meantime, Ian moved to Ontario and Lynn to B.C., and eventually Roy and Sylvia moved to Ontario to manage a gift store for Ian’s wife, which they did for 20 years, before moving to B.C. three years ago to be closer to Foden.
“We like it very much – we’ve settled down here,” Sylvia said. “We’ve seen a fair bit of the world, and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”