They met seven decades ago but Rica and Cornelius (Cor) Jongbloets remember it like it was yesterday.
The venue was the weekly Saturday night dance in their native Holland. Rica was there with her girlfriends and just wanted to dance, but no one would ask her. It didn’t take her long to find out why: “I told my friends to ‘stay away, that’s my girlfriend,’” Cor said.
“I wasn’t his girlfriend but he said I was and I had no one to dance with,” Rica, 91, said. “We ended up leaving. I said to my friends ‘Let’s go home. That guy thinks I’m his girlfriend.’ We laughed and laughed.”
Cor persisted, showing up every week to woo Rica to his side. He did, and last Saturday, Sept. 26, the couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with a surprise party thrown by their family and a few friends. They were especially thrilled by a slideshow of old and dear friends, and the streamers and balloons imprinted with their faces.
“There was a whole history of our life. All the old friends. It was beautiful,” Cor, 93, said.
The Jongbloets were in their early 20s when they met, married and moved to Canada. They had nothing: no English, little money and two children – Launi, 6, and Tony 3. They set up in a basement suite in Kitsilano until Cor found a job at the plywood plant and bought their first home.
After raising their children, they moved to Delta. They found their way to South Cariboo 34 years ago after their daughter married a man whose parents lived in this area. They started out in 83 Mile, but then sold their house to their daughter – she uses it for holidays – and now live in a trailer in town.
The couple, who has four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, says the move to Canada was the best thing they ever did. And even though it’s been 70 years, Cor still raves about his bride.
“I did everything in my power to get her,” he said. “She was always baking and sewing and knitting. She never had a boyfriend. That’s where all my respect went; you can’t let someone like that go. My neighbours, they were all jealous because it was after the war and she was in beautiful dresses all the time.”
When asked the secret to their long marriage, Cor quips: “I always did the dishes. Now she wants to get rid of the old dishwasher.”
“That’s him,” Rica laughs.
Cor said working hard to save for their family and their retirements were key to a good life. But he acknowledges “it’s not that it always goes perfect.”
To Rica, the secret is working together and talking out their differences. “We are always together,” she said.
“It’s hard for everybody but you don’t think about that because you’re so young,” she said. “You go to a dance and have nice times. It’s not only the good times, you have to deal with (the hard times) too. We talk a lot about it. We fight about some things too, as well.”
Cor agreed. “I won’t say how many fights I got.”
“But I won them all,” Rica interjected.
The couple still laughs with each other and Rica notes Cor – always the joker – always brings her up when she feels down. While she worries about everything, she said, Cor is the positive light. “He’s the one who lifts me up,” she said. “He sees the good things. He always says ‘behind the clouds is the sun.’”
“I always say ‘what did I tell you?’ And then she’s happy again,” Cor added. “We’ve got money and a happy family. Our kids and grandchildren all went to university and have good jobs. My life is based on I got a good wife. I don’t have to copy my parents. As soon as we got married, I thought we had to climb to the top. I got exactly what I wanted.”