Recently two of our wonderful clients, Frank and Mary O’Brien, celebrated their 70th Wedding Anniversary. This significant milestone was marked with a letter from Queen Elizabeth II!!
Connect employee Regan Matthews had a lovely chat with Frank and Mary over the phone about their life together……
Mary was so open and animated, and spoke about her family with such love and pride, I felt honoured to hear their story. Frank sat beside Mary while we chatted, occasionally helping her with a place or date when it had slipped her mind, but generally stayed quiet. As Mary said, “he’s a man of few words.”
The couple met in 1950, when Frank was twenty two and Mary just seventeen. Frank played football with Mary’s brother-in-law, and one evening their football club hosted a fundraising cabaret. Mary spotted Frank straight away; “he was 5’10”, well built, with dark brown hair and blue eyes“. Mary asked her sister who the handsome man was, and a double date was arranged the following week. They recalled they went to see an Audie Murphy movie.
Just over a year later, on June 30th 1951, Frank and Mary were married. I asked Mary about the proposal, whether Frank did anything special, did he go down on one knee? “No!” Mary laughed, “just said to me one day, ‘Wanna get hitched?’”.
The wedding was celebrated at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Newtown, with around one hundred guests. Mary wore a beautiful traditional white wedding gown with a veil. Two of her sisters were bridesmaids and wore mauve outfits, and her little sister was flower girl, wearing a lemon-yellow dress. Frank’s brothers took on the Best Man and Groomsman roles. “Frank’s elder brother is still alive now, he’s 97 in October!” Mary tells me proudly. I comment that they must have good genes in his family, as Frank himself is ninety three. Mary, a mere eighty eight herself, agrees; “Aunt Lil, who lived down our road in Rozelle, lived to one hundred and three!”
Frank and Mary honeymooned in Bundeena, where they spent two weeks in Frank’s brother-in-law’s home. Recently Connect Inner West embarked on a social outing to Bundeena. The driver made a detour and Frank and Mary had a photo taken in front of their honeymoon house. The day out brought back lots of happy memories for them both.
Frank and Mary had two children; a son, Larry and a daughter, Toni. Larry and Toni have blessed the O’Briens with four grandchildren between them and six great-grandchildren. Sadly they lost their son, Larry, to cancer in 2011, but their daughter Toni, and two of their grandchildren, live not too far away in Malabar. The rest of the family are dotted around the state, but all keep in touch very regularly, and meet up for big family celebrations. “It’s very important to make an effort to connect with your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, then you’ll have a happy family” Mary tells me.
Both Frank and Mary were very involved in the upbringing of all of their great-grandchildren; at one stage they would mind five of them, all under five years old, two days a week, so that their parents could work. “Frank always prepared their food; he would cook and mash up different vegetables, and add a little corned beef as they got older. They called it ‘Frank’s Veggies’, and to this day they all still love to eat it!”
All of the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have been very successful, with many completing or currently attending university. Mary boasts “everybody says they take after me!” She proudly tells me about all their careers and achievements, including her great-grandson who recently trialed for the Olympic Games in swimming.
Even though Mary herself finished school after form three, she always worked hard and was never out of a job. She would do various factory work, “One year I worked in nine different factories… we never had much money, but we had enough.” After taking a few years off to raise her children, Mary got a job on the switchboard of TAB NSW. She was soon promoted to Supervisor and stayed with them for twenty four years.
Frank was always a hard worker, and spent forty years working for the NSW Electricity Commission. “He’s a good man, I’m very lucky” Mary says. “In over seventy years of knowing him, I’ve never heard him say a bad word about anyone.”
I ask Mary what has kept them together for so many years; “He listens to me, and never tries to make me do anything I don’t want to do.” I ask her if he’s got any annoying habits; “Oh he taps all the time! He loves his music, and he’s constantly tapping along to something!” I hear Frank chuckle in the background.
Finally, I ask Mary for any advice for others who may be attempting marriage. “You’ve both got to be able to have your own opinions, and be free to voice them. And don’t try to change each other, accept them for who they are.”
One last thing Mary wanted to add, was a big thank you to Connect: Inner West. She says “you’ve been a huge help over the years, and all the staff are extraordinary; they really go out of their way to help to everyone.”
Thank you Mary and Frank, you’re an inspiration!
Frank and Mary can be seen regularly on our social outings as well making use of our individual transport services. If you or a family member could benefit from the services Connect provides within the community, please explore our website, contact us on 9558 6800 for more information.
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