Not many folks can claim the marital longevity of Art and Helen Brookes of Lac la Hache, who marked 65 years together on Aug. 19.
They celebrated with family at a gala luncheon held in their honour at the Agassiz Agricultural Hall on Aug. 22.
It began with the drone of a bagpipe when the Art and Helen were piped in by a nephew, Calvin Davies, a pipe major in the Vancouver Police Pipe Band who has piped around the world.
The local couple is well known in our community, and Art continues to make his popular barn-wood picture frames (sold at A&B Photo) in his little shop at their lakeside home.
Helen says she is a voracious reader, particularly of detective novels, while Art prefers Louis L’Amour westerns.
They love to watch mystery movies together, and always share a lot of laughs, she notes.
Their family ties go back more than 65 years, as Helen met Art through her friendship with his brothers.
After her mother died when Helen was five years old, she was raised by different aunts across Alberta, but as a child lived briefly in Burnaby, where Art was raised, and later learned she had attended his school at age six.
While training as an Infant Nurse, she lived with an aunt who, it turned out, lived right across the street from Art, so Helen says their romance was “meant to happen.”
The oldest son of seven children, Art says after Helen arrived as a young woman, his brothers dared him to take her out on a date.
However, Helen notes her would-be suitor showed up at her door when she had just washed her hair.
“I put a scarf over my wet hair and away I went. Now, how many girls would do that?”
They went to see Mother Wore Tights starring Betty Grable and Dan Dailey at the super-deluxe Strand Theatre, she says, adding a family member recently found it for them on video format.
Art says when he kissed Helen on their second date, she bit him on the lip.
“I thought: Oh-oh! I have got to tame this tiger!”
Tamed or not, they soon fell in love and married in 1950 at the Deer Lake United Church.
Art had a long career as a geotechnical research machinist at the University of British Columbia, which saw him travelling regularly. During the mid-1980s, he spent three weeks in Tuktoyaktuk researching at the McKenzie River Delta at the Arctic Ocean.
“I drove our research truck out onto the Beaufort Sea, and the ice was about seven-foot-six, but even then you could feel a little creaking. It was a real experience. It was about 35 below.”
They have travelled to many countries in Europe, as well as to Hawaii, Palm Springs, Missouri, Yellowknife and Newfoundland, both from their longtime home in Burnabyand after retiring to Lac la Hache in 1994.
They began visiting the South Cariboo regularly after they bought their property on 1972, and Art built their prefab retirement home.
“We love it on the lake,” says Helen. “And the neighbours – it’s a good little community.”
The neighbours are very helpful and keep an eye on their place when they are away, Art adds.
They have played a heck of a lot of crib games in Burnaby and Lac la Hache, and continue to play on occasion.
Art was president of the 100 Mile House Garden Club for a few years, and now keeps his thumb green puttering in his veggie patch. He also loves to fish, and still pursues “the big one” year-round.
Helen held down the fort, raised the children and ran home daycares while she also explored her talents with ceramics and crafts over the years.
Once in a while hard times hit, like a few years back when they returned from a trip to find their home totally frozen up and all the appliances ruined.
But things have a way of working out, they say. A good-hearted neighbour insisted on taking them in when they would have gone to a hotel, and their home insurance covered the damage because a power interruption had cut off the heat.
They also had a tree come down on their trailer when they first moved to Lac la Hache, and Helen ran to save the family dog inside while Art hollered for her to stay out.
However, the good-natured seniors say they are fortunate to have been spared any terrible tragedy.
“We have got a pretty good life,” says Art. “We have got four kids and nine grandchildren, and they are very supportive. They’ve been very concerned about us being up here in the wintertime and getting in and out, but as long as we are healthy enough and can drive … [we are OK].”
He adds their six-and-a-half decades together have been peaceful, and they never have battles.
“We have had our differences over the years, but we have always been able to iron them out.”