Marriage that began with a friendly wave

GOOD FRIENDS: Joan and Hendrik Westraad still enjoy spending their time together after six decades of marriage. picture by: Mike Holmes
GOOD FRIENDS: Joan and Hendrik Westraad still enjoy spending their time together after six decades of marriage. picture by: Mike Holmes

A FRIENDLY wave a day was all it took for Joan Welgemoed and Hendrik Westraad to fall in love and go on to share 60 years of marriage.

Joan, 79, met Hendrik, 82, while he was living in a block of flats behind her family home in Sydenham in 1950.

“I used to be a cargo controller for Transnet before I retired in 1989, and every evening when I went home, I would see her sitting on the stoep and I’d wave hello,” Hendrik recalled.

The couple did this for a while until a mutual friend brought Hendrik to a braai hosted by Joan’s father, Henry Welgemoed.

Gazing into her husband’s eyes, Joan said she never thought that Hendrik would want to be with her, as she had a bad limp.

“I was born with one leg shorter than the other, and the limping was very bad before I had operations. Before that, I thought there was no way that Hendrik would be attracted to someone like me.

“But I was wrong. The waves eventually turned to a budding romance,” Joan said. “In our earlier years, we used to walk to hand in hand to the bioscope and along the way, we’d sing our favourite tunes such as Mona Lisa and Broken Wings.”

Before proposing, Hendrik asked Joan’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage and Henry gave him his blessing.

“We’d been dating for almost four years at that time, and I’d already moved into their family home. From the first days I started seeing her, there was just something pulling me towards her. I had a feeling she was the one I wanted to be with,” he said.

The Taybank couple married on March 26, 1955 at St Barnabas Church in North End, surrounded by close family and friends.

The Westraads have four children – Michael, Diane, Eric and Michelle – 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Starting their family with Michael’s birth was “one of the happiest moments”, Hendrik said.

The couple jokingly added that when they bought their first car, a Morris Oxford, Hendrik had to give up smoking because they “could not afford both the petrol and his cigarettes”.

Housewife Joan noted she was the disciplinarian of the two, and said couples today need to form a united front when raising their children.

Housewife Joan noted she was the disciplinarian of the two, and said couples today need to form a united front when raising their children.

-Nomazima Nkosi 

Joan and Hendrik Westraad married at St Barnabas in North End on March 26 1955
Joan and Hendrik Westraad married at St Barnabas in North End on March 26 1955

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