THEIRS is a love that has stood the test of time: Donald and Essie Sendall have been devoted to each other ever since marrying 71 years ago during World War 2.
A framed certificate from Queen Elizabeth arrived to mark their 70th wedding anniversary in 2013.
ssie Seymour and Donald Sendall, both 91, attended the same school, Beech Hill High in England, but never really paid any attention to each other until they met up a few years later while working at the same factory, Davis Gas and Electric.
“We left school and started work at the age of 14. The war came and we worked at a factory manufacturing equipment to fight the Germans. She became a trained metal worker and I was an apprentice,” Don said.
They dated for six months before he proposed and cites the uncertainty of war as one of the main reasons for his decisions to speed up his relationship with Essie.
“During those days you didn’t have time to think about whether you wanted to get married or not but rather grabbed every opportunity of happiness, and that’s what we did.”
The couple married on December 11 1943 at All Saints Anglican Church in Luton, and spent their honeymoon at a 16th century cottage out in the countryside.
The couple had four children: Jill, who works in Perth, retired minister Barry, a daughter named Janet who passed away several years ago and Nicholas, who works for the South African Defence Force.
“Because we have children in several corners of the world, we’ve travelled extensively and that has been one of the highlights of our marriage,” she said.
When the couple decided to move to South Africa in 1964, it took them just four months to pack up, sell their belongings and uproot their four children to head to a foreign land.
“We boarded a boat heading for Port Elizabeth but got booted off in Cape Town because we were told PE did not have a customs office. We stayed there for a month before finally being allowed to come to the Bay,” Essie recalled.
While the family were held up in the Mother City, Don travelled through to General Motors in PE to look for a job, having worked as an engineer for Vauxhall Motors in the UK. “It was sheer luck because the motor industry was taking off, especially here in the Eastern Cape. I went up to the Struandale plant, told them about my previous experience and within an hour I was an employee of General Motors,” he said.
Eventually Essie and the children arrived in the Bay and moved into a fully furnished house in Sunridge Park at a cost of R65 a month.
Though they have had their fare share of downs, such as losing Janet to cancer, the Sendalls said there were two things that had kept them together for 71 years.
“Never let an argument go down with the sun – apologise to your spouse even if you feel you weren’t in the wrong because the tensions fester and cause more problems down the line. Secondly, the cement of a marriage is a man telling his wife he loves her every day and for the wife to return the favour.”
One of their highlights was receiving a plaque from Queen Elizabeth on their platinum anniversary and having it delivered exactly on the day.
“Our son Nicholas, who is extremely gutsy, wrote to the queen and received a response saying they would get back to him. On the day of our 70th anniversary, a package arrived – it was from the queen congratulating us on our milestone,” Don said.
The Sendalls have eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren whom they visit in Australia, the Netherlands and other provinces within the country. “We’ve lived a blessed life here in South Africa.”