70 Years and Counting

When a couple falls in love, the decision to marry in the Church is not taken lightly. It is a sacrament where they pledge their love to each other and God. During the wedding ceremony, the couple promises that their vow will keep them together “until death do us part”. But few could possibly realise on that day that their years together would last a remarkable 70 years.

Edmund Belcher and Margaret Hillard were married on 9 March 1946 at Sts Mary and Joseph Cathedral, Armidale. They have recently celebrated their 70 year milestone of love and togetherness with a special blessing from St Michael’s Nelson Bay parish priest, Fr Kevin Corrigan. This was followed later by a celebratory lunch surrounded by 50 family members.

Margaret (Peg) and Edmund (Ted) have known each other since childhood; they grew up as neighbours in Uralla. They attended the same Catholic primary school but their lives took divergent paths when Peg’s family moved to Armidale and Ted’s to Maitland. But, like all true love stories, they re-connected later, and the rest is history.

Peg and Ted have four children, Ted, Michael, Margaret and Patricia. Families tend to grow; they now have 17 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren, including recently-born twins. Peg has just turned 93 and Ted will be 95 in July, their longevity due to an active lifestyle and healthy diet. Both have a deep faith which they have passed on to their children.

They have experienced the Great Depression, World War II and the Second Vatican Council, all bringing incredible changes in their lifetime. They have played major roles in our diocesan church. Peg was the first woman to be appointed to a Parish Council following Vatican II, but after time she became frustrated, “They sit and talk, but don’t DO anything.” She curtailed her tenure, but was a female pioneer in our local church.

Ted was a carpenter, and constantly in demand to carry out work at the old Bishop’s House in Maitland and other church areas. He also worked for the Dominican Sisters in their convent and school at St Mary’s and later at their new priory. He also worked at the Marist Brothers’ house and school, now St Peter’s, Maitland. These were the days before the diocese took charge of schools; they were still independent and run by religious congregations or parishes. In fact, many presbyteries and churches throughout the diocese would have something created and made by Ted’s expert hands.

Peg was the first, and sole (at that time) secretary at Marist Brothers School in Maitland, where she worked for many years under several Marist principals. In appreciation she was made a Lay Affiliate of the Marist Brothers, a rare honour. Both were involved in church activities including St Patrick’s Day, the annual Catholic Balls and Christ the King ceremonies. They were also occupied in many of their children’s Catholic school committees and sporting activities.

Ted continued full-time building till age caught up; he retired at 70 but still carried out smaller jobs for the church and congregations for several more years. Together they built a new home at Port Stephens and 25 years ago, moved there permanently where they continue living independently today. Ted has kept up with technology, purchasing a laptop computer and teaching himself its complexities.

Their passion for travel allowed them a trip overseas, and they have seen most of the sights of our beautiful country before touring became popular. But no comforts for them! Ted built a small timber cabin onto the back of his work truck and they spent many months during several trips ‘roughing it’ and living under the stars in towns and remote areas.

They have lived an extraordinary life together, overflowing with family and faith. To be alive so long and to have all their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren still living is exceptional. To commemorate 70 years together is an outstanding achievement and one which they and their family celebrated with gratitude. They have overwhelmingly kept their wedding vow to God and each other. They are an inspiration to all who know them.

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