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Sarah Simpson column: 70 years in, Duncan couple knows the secret to a happy marriage

Fran and Peter Newall recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary
Fran and Peter Newall in Lions Bay. (Courtesy of the Newalls)

Fran and Peter Newall have just accomplished the darn near impossible.

On Jan. 20, the Duncan couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with a meal at Spicecraft restaurant in Mill Bay.

Their friend, Mony Vesseur, had given me a call to let me know of their achievement and we agreed it was a significant accomplishment worthy of praise.

“I was a bit in shock,” said Vesseur when she heard the news of their anniversary. “Seventy years! That’s big news! They’re in their 90s now!”

“They’re such amazing people,” Vesseur continued. “Everybody who meets them loves them because they’re so endearing. They’re a very endearing couple.”

Well they would have to be amazing and endearing people to stick with each other for that long, I figure.

Nobody wants to spend 70 years with somebody that’s neither of those things.

Even so, I needed to find out for myself. Plus, I needed some advice on how to make a marriage last for the duration. My 10-year anniversary is less than a month away and while I love my husband, it’s hard to fathom another 60 years together.

I gave the Newalls a call last week and Vesseur was right: they’re a delightful couple.

When I asked them how they were able to achieve such an accomplishment, Peter chuckled.

“It’s funny,” he said. “I hadn’t really thought of it. It’s not a record by any means but it’s been a wonderful life together.”

“It’s always been 50/50 with us,” Fran explained.

“We’ve really tried hard to look after the other one,” Peter added. “It’s been honestly a very great pleasure for me and I’m sure Fran as well.”

Fran said she believes marriage works well if both parties enjoy doing the same things.

“We both like to travel, and did a lot of travelling,” she said.

Their life together began in Saskatoon where they grew up. After high school Fran attended the University of Saskatoon and Peter joined the army.

“When we were growing up, it was so easy in Saskatchewan to get your education and when you finished, there were so many jobs available,” Fran said. “It was an easy life.”

The pair married in 1953 when Peter was 21 or 22 and Fran had just turned 21.

They had a son named Peter Cameron Newall and the trio travelled extensively, including in 1964 a seven-week sea voyage around the world on a British cruise ship.

They must have really liked the ocean because they sold the house they’d built together in Saskatoon, and headed to Vancouver Island.

“From 1953 on we were trying to get to B.C.,” Fran explained.

They bought 20 acres atop the Malahat and created a campground and they both worked full-time jobs on top of their campground duties. Their son finished his schooling there and moved out on his own before the Newall’s next big move: to Atlin, YT.

From roughly 1972 to 1975, the duo was working in the government office in Atlin.

“I was known as ‘the guy with the tie’ because I was the only guy in town that wore one,” Peter said. Because if it had to do with the provincial government, Peter was the guy to deal with it, including being the justice of the peace, the gold commissioner and the coroner. Naturally, Fran was his deputy.

“I had 26 provincial government jobs,” Peter said with a laugh. “It was a wonderful experience being up north.”

After travelling the world (England, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Mediterranean, Spain, Mexico, Kenya, and more) meeting up at times with their son who lived in Kabul, the pair formed a woodworking company in North Vancouver.

“I think we were the happiest when we were working together,” Fran said. “When we were building our house,” she said. “And the campground,” he added. “And we built a cabinet shop in North Vancouver together,” she continued.

The pair said they’ve had their disagreements but mostly they’ve been “little things that are pretty easy to resolve.”

Communication has been key.

“You have to understand the other person. That’s half the battle. You’ve got to talk to each other,” Peter said. “You can’t let anything build up without saying something.”

They also find the humor in things when they’re able.

“Peter is a Taurus and when he says no, I know he means no!” Fran laughed.

“And she’s a Libra so I think that’s one reason why we’re getting along so well,” Peter noted.

So, there you have it. The secret to a happy long-term marriage: astrological signs.

Well not exactly.

“Communication and cooperation,” Fran said. And time.

“We’ve always put in our time for sure,” added Peter.

And, it seems that after 70 years together, all that time and effort has paid off.

“We’ve had a fantastic life,” Peter said. “And a lot of it we’ve done together. It’s been a hoot.”

Sarah Simpson

About the Author: Sarah Simpson

I started my time with Black Press Media as an intern, before joining the Citizen in the summer of 2004.
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