Diamond anniversary: kiss, dance, and cake

The couple and their three daughters celebrating, from left, Maria Ross, Dee Dawson, Raywyn and Neil Dawson, and Carol Sturm. Photo Jackie Russell.

Neil and Raywyn Dawson were told their romance would be short-lived.

“You’re both red heads. It won’t last past 12 months!”

They’ve recently celebrated their diamond anniversary – 60 years of love and devotion.

On August 12 at 11am the married couple, surrounded by friends and family including their three daughters, sealed their anniversary and wedding vow renewals with a kiss, a dance and a cake.

The ceremony took place at Ambridge Rose, a rest home where Raywyn stays.

Raywyn, her bridesmaid Shirley Anderson, and best man James Biggam all have dementia.

“Mum’s had dementia for eight years,” the couple’s daughter and the marriage celebrant, Carol Sturm, says. “Dad’s been amazing throughout it all.”

That was one of the driving forces behind the marriage renewals and ceremony, Carol says.

“I wanted to make it special for him He’s precious.”

Neil told the Times that Raywyn “took his eye”. They fell in love and were married.

He worked at a tyre company for 25 years, then switched roles to a caretaker for another 30. Raywyn was a machinist.

“We love darts, pool and dancing,” Neil says. “She’s been a good wife.”

He has taken care of his wife at home for years. “She moved into Ambrose 18 months ago. It’s been difficult.”

The couple’s love for each other was poignant as they shared a dance on the lawn of Ambridge Rose as pictures were snapped and tears were spilled. Multi-coloured flowers created by residents lined the wooden cover above their heads.

Congratulatory messages and cards flooded in. They came from the Queen, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, Botany MP Christopher Luxon, Mayor Phil Goff, and Minister for Seniors Dr Ayesha Verrall.

Kathy Purdy, Neil’s sister, says: “Staying together for 60 years is a miracle and a blessing.”