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Osoyoos couple remains madly in love after 66 wonderful years of marriage
Considering the wonderful and happy life they have enjoyed together during 66 years of marriage, it’s rather ironic that their shared hatred for Adolf Hitler brought Martin and Josephine Reynders together almost 70 years ago.
“We met during a celebration of the end of the war in our hometown in Holland,” said Martin, who celebrated his 92nd birthday this week (Wednesday). “There was a huge group of us burning an effigy of Adolf Hitler and we were all dancing around the fire in the town square. I grabbed her hand and we kept on dancing. We finally started chatting and I knew I liked her right away.”
Josephine, sporting a sly smile, shared the exact same feelings.
“He was so handsome,” she said proudly.
They started dating, fell in love and were married 18 months later.
They’ve seldom been apart since.
Despite never having children, Martin and Josephine say they have enjoyed a wonderful life together and are so proud to call Canada home.
“It’s such a beautiful country,” she said. “We’ve never once regretted coming here and we’ve never once ever thought about going back to live in Holland. Even when we visit, which we’ve done often, we can’t wait to get back home to Canada.”
Like millions of others, the Reynders lived a very difficult life following the end of the Second World War as jobs were few and far between in Holland or any other part of Europe for that matter.
Since he was a little boy, Martin had dreamed about owning his own piece of land and becoming a farmer.
After getting married on Sept. 22, 1947 and working as farm labourers, they made the decision to try and come to Canada as quickly as humanly possible.
“There were no opportunities in Holland as the country was over populated and there were no jobs,” he said in his Dutch accent. “I used to dream about coming to North America and we decided on Canada because it was much easier to get into Canada back in those days.
“They wanted farmers from Europe and we applied and were accepted. That was our dream.”
With only a few dollars in their pockets and the ability to only speak a few words of English, the Reynders arrived in Canada on May 23, 1949.
They travelled by boat from Holland to Quebec City and then immediately jumped on a train that took them to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. A man named Cory Coop had hired them to work on his small farm located 25 miles east of Prince Albert.
“Back then, when it came to work for new immigrants, it was take it or leave it. We took it,” said Martin smiling.
In a book called “Pioneers and Followers of Idylwyld and Witchekan Districts”, Martin wrote upon landing in Canada, “What a change. A new world. A new land and a new environment. A new life. A new start from the beginning.”
After working one summer for Coop, they found work together on a dairy farm in a little town called Choiceland, Sask and worked there for two years.
They ended up in another small town called Leoville and rented a farm for 11 years.
They finally saved enough money to purchase their own farm in Leoville in 1963 and spent more than 30 years running their farm, which grew wheat, oats, barley and livestock.
They moved to Osoyoos to retire in 2006.
“We had spent many summers travelling through B.C. and we had been through Osoyoos many times and picked here to retire because of the beautiful climate,” said Martin.
When asked about the keys to a successful marriage after 66 years, Josephine and Martin agree having open communication and never taking each other for granted have been crucial.
“We had our share of small arguments, like everyone else, but we always resolved them as quickly as possible,” he said. “We always settled our differences before they became a problem.”
Josephine agrees and says her husband is still as good looking as the day he swept her off her feet.
“I still love him like the day I met him,” she said. “He’s been real good to me my entire life and he’s just so handsome.”
Because of failing health, Martin and Josephine are anxious to sell their Osoyoos condominium and look forward to moving into a unit at the Mariposa Gardens seniors’ residence in the coming months.
With Valentine’s Day taking place on Friday, Martin will be buying his wife some chocolates or flowers or maybe both, even though she has never asked for anything on February 14, he said.
“In our culture in Holland, Valentine’s Day isn’t a big deal at all,” he said. “It was kind of shocking to come to Canada and see the big fuss they make over this day. I try and do a little something for her, but it’s not really a big deal.”
Josephine said she looks forward to celebrating her 67th wedding anniversary in September.
“We’ve had a great life together,” she said. “We’ve been blessed.”