Faith is the keystone that has kept the marriage of former Taranaki Daily News editor Denis Garcia and his wife Bernadette going for 65 years.
The couple, who celebrated their wedding anniversary on April 11, has seven children and are now blessed with 24 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren.
“Obviously, there are many challenges when you are raising a big family. When you’ve got a faith like ours, that gives you added strength in all sorts of situations,” said Mr Garcia.
Mr Garcia stressed communication is important in any relationship.
“The big thing is to listen to each other’s views. It might be on big matters relating to the raising of your children or just a simple matter of where you are going to dinner that night. Don’t be dogmatic about it. Be receptive to your partner’s viewpoint, even if you don’t agree. You’ll win sometimes,” he said.
Although there was a time or two, he admitted, when he failed at it.
“There was the occasion when I did not advise her of an assignment,” he recalled. “Parachuting was just becoming a popular sport and a gathering was to be held at New Plymouth. I was selected to do a jump which was not entirely successful and when I arrived home, half-carried by two photographers, Bernadette was not impressed.”
Mr Garcia’s journalistic career sometimes took him abroad.
“I was seconded to the New Zealand Press Association on two occasions to cover in 1959 the tour of the South Pacific in the cruiser HMNZS Royalist by the Governor-General Lord Cobham, and in 1964 to report on the arrival in Cyprus of the New Zealand police unit sent there as part of the United Nations peacekeeping force,” he said.
“I owe a great debt of gratitude to Bernadette for looking after seven young children.”
While Mrs Garcia had the full-time job of looking after the kids, Mr Garcia “spent most of my days off working as a casual on the waterfront at New Plymouth, on the chain at the Waitara freezing works or in the local Totalisator Agency Board branch”.
“Supporting a family of seven children was no easy task in those days,” he noted. “When they were all old enough, Bernadette returned to work as a computerised typesetter at the newspaper.”
Mr and Mrs Garcia met in Dargaville where he worked on the local newspaper and she at a legal office.
“She was an accomplished Highland dancer, a representative netball player and a piper in the Northern Wairoa Highland Pipe Band. Her friends arranged for us to attend a ball together as a blind date and that was that,” he said.
They met frequently after that. In their many discussions, she so impressed him with the depth of her faith that he decided to convert from being an Anglican to Catholicism.
They were married in Sacred Heart Church, Dargaville, in 1953, both aged 21.
Mr Garcia said his most prized possession is a photo he took of his children 50 years ago, when his youngest child Denise started school.
“They were lined up from youngest to oldest, two attending Francis Douglas Memorial College, two at Sacred Heart Girls’ College and three at St John Bosco’s primary school,” he said.
Sadly, Denise passed away at age 26 in a motor vehicle accident in the United Kingdom.
The couple, who received Benemerenti medals from Pope Francis in 2014, had been joint sacristans at Our Lady Help of Christians church in New Plymouth for about 20 years.
On her retirement, Mrs Garcia volunteered with St Vincent de Paul Opportunity Shop for 15 years.
Mr Garcia was also a SVDP member for 30 years, occupying various roles such as national newsletter editor as well as Taranaki area treasurer, and OLHC conference secretary.