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From dance hall meeting to diamond anniversary

John and Florrie Donnelly celebrated 60 years of marriage. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

The couple were married on 20 August 1960 in Motueka. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

The music jollied around them as the pair danced together, happy and slightly nervous in each other’s arms for the first time.

Sixty years on and Blenheim couple John and Florrie Donnelly were all smiles, celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary.

They were surrounded by family and friends on Saturday as they marked the special occasion with a party at home.

The pair met on Christmas Eve 1956 at a dance in Motueka. Three years later they were married.

“I was 17 years old when we met and wanted to join the Merchant Navy, but dad wouldn’t let me until I was 21 years old.

“I met John so am glad I didn’t go,” Florrie says.

While they were dating, every Sunday, John would pick up Florrie in a Hudson Super 6 and the pair would go for a drive.

After three years of courtship, John says he plucked up the courage to ask Florrie’s dad for her hand in marriage.

“He was out working in the paddock and I had to track him down.

“I wanted to do it properly and ask permission,” he says.

John says he wasn’t sure what she would say.

“I really had no idea, I just hoped she would say yes.”

“I knew straight away I would say yes,” says Florrie.

In a light pink wedding dress she made herself and a veil adorned with handstitched flowers, Florrie waited for her groom at the alter of a church in Motueka.

With her sister Elsie as bridesmaid, the wedding on 20 August was small but wonderful,” says Florrie.

“The minister had a donkey that was peering in the window while we got married. Not many people would have a donkey at their wedding,” she says.

With three children, Alison, John and Martin, John and Florrie have six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

While Alert Level 2 meant some family couldn’t make it to the anniversary party from Auckland, plenty of guests were there to congratulate the couple.

They also received a card of congratulations from Her Majesty the Queen.

“We just get on well,” says Florrie. “There’s no secret, we’re good friends and enjoy being together.”

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