Whanganui Te Parihi Katorika a ki Whanganui parishioners Joan and Clive Sullivan were presented with a papal blessing on the occasion of their 60th wedding anniversary.
The presentation, made by parish priest Fr Marcus Francis at the 9.30am Mass on Sunday, August 26, was greeted with prolonged applause from the congregation. The couple said afterwards that the blessing was a real surprise for them.
Their three adult children Terry, Jenny and Russell and their families had been to the couple’s retirement village for a special afternoon tea the previous day.
“Six of our seven grandchildren came except Kate who had just had her first child Oliver in Sydney making us first-time great grandparents,” said Clive.
Grandson Mark and his partner Nicole flying from London was another delightful surprise for the couple.
Clive was born in Upokongara along the banks of the Whanganui River and he met Joan Collis from Palmerston North when both were on the staff of Lytton Street School in Feilding. Clive was already teaching there and it was Joan’s first appointment after graduation.
“After a school social event I took Joan home for a drink and the relationship grew from there,” said Clive. They were married in St Brigid’s Catholic Church in Feilding by Fr Patrick Hanratty on August 26, 1958.
Teaching mainly at schools in the Feilding and Marton areas, the shift to St Mary’s Primary School in Blenheim saw Clive pick up his first leadership role, becoming one of the first lay principals.
He also belonged to a working committee as preparations began towards the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act (1975). This meant many trips to Wellington for meetings. When thoughts turned to a posting leading up to retirement, when a vacancy was advertised for principal of St Marcellin’s in Whanganui they made their move. This was a position Clive held until 1986.
Down through the years of raising the family, Joan did her stint on kindergarten and school committees, Catholic Women’s League and relief teaching from time to time. For 30 years she was secretary of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, now called Voice
for Life. She was awarded a life membership.
Asked about the secret of their marriage success, both were in agreement: “We’ve had our ups and downs.
Despite disagreements we’ve always managed to get on with things.”