A newly wed Clifford and Mary Hobbis were walking down the aisle to the Wedding March Sept. 13, 1941 when the pump organ screeched, banged and died.
That was after the groom lost the letter of permission he needed from Mary’s father to get a marriage licence, which caused a hold-up at the Vancouver courthouse and nearly made Clifford late to the ferry he had to catch for his wedding. A storm that came up while he was en route left him and his new suit drenched. It was after the minister came out to their Glen Lake wedding, outside Victoria, thinking it was a funeral and their photographer got lost. They don’t have a single photo of their wedding day.
“People outside were saying ‘this marriage isn’t going to last.’ It’s on the 13th and all these different things have happened,” said Mary.
But the pair wasn’t superstitious at all.
“We just ignored them. We were happy,” she said.
This month, Mary, 94, and Clifford, 96, celebrate 75 years of marriage.
The Governor General of Canada, Premier Christy Clark, and the City of Chilliwack, where their daughter lives, all sent letters of congratulations for the milestone.
Mary, white hair brushed back from her face and a pink beaded necklace around her neck, leaned back in a chair her husband built for her in a cozy apartment they share in north Nanaimo. Clifford sat across from her on the seat of his walker. They aren’t finishing each other’s sentences, but they volley conversation back and forth like a well-oiled team.
They have not had an argument in 75 years, he said.
Mind you, said Mary, they have gotten pretty hot under the collar.
What’s made their marriage so long lasting, they say, is love and communication. Being Christian people l-o-v-e means a lot, Clifford said.
“Love isn’t always easy,” said Mary. “Love can be hard and we all make mistakes and we’ve got to be willing to forgive each other and we’ve learned these things the hard way.”
“And in great big print – patience. Big secret to married life,” said Clifford, with a grin.
The couple met in Regina at his brother’s apartment. Mary’s friend, who knew the Hobbis family, took her along during a visit and there was Clifford, up on a ladder and wallpapering.
Mary said he came down as they were leaving and told them not to go yet. He went to the drug store and came back with chocolate bars, including a Sweet Marie for her.
As she rode a streetcar home, she wondered if the chocolate bar meant anything.
Clifford says his first impression of Mary was that she was going to be his wife. He could tell by her smile.
She was 18 and he, 19. By February, 1941, he asked her father for permission to marry and in September they became husband and wife. The Second World War had also started.
While walking in Vancouver, Clifford said he and his brother, Harold, made up their minds they had to do their part. They joined the army in December 1942 and went home to tell their wives.
With a one-month-old baby, Mary said she wasn’t at all impressed.
“However, we got through that one too” she said.
She made him a book of handwritten poems that he carried with him throughout the war, and still has today. The first poem, My Promise, is important to him. It’s love.
“Can’t explain it much more,” he said. “It’s real and it meant a lot to me when things were down or we could have been killed and all the rest of it.”
Mary and Clifford have five children, 10 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and four great-great-granddaughters. A celebration for their anniversary will be held this month.
When they realized it had been 75 years, Clifford said they couldn’t believe it.
As for the letters from different dignitaries, he said they got them as if they are somebody special.
“We are just husband and wife.”