Edward and Jo Cripps are both 84 and have built their enduring marriage on a solid partnership and shared interests, such as wildlife. But back in the early 1950s they needed some convincing that they were meant for each other.
Originally from Gauteng, the couple – who celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary tomorrow -moved to Cape Town 16 years ago to live out their golden years in tranquillity, close to the sea and, above all, with each other.
Jo was Edward’s sister’s school friend and had known the Cripps family since she was a teenager. She had befriended Edward as well but it was only years later that they started dating.
“At my 21st birthday party, Jo was there, and I remember my father said that night, ‘There’s only one girl for you.’ He was talking about Jo. I told him he was mad!” says Edward.
Edward’s father, Jack, had also offered his future daughter-in-law some sage advice.
“Throw your line into the water and fish him out,’ he told me. I just laughed,” says Jo.
But the seed had been planted, and from it sprouted a budding romance that became serious on a family vacation to Cape Town in 1954.
After two years of “serious courting”, they were engaged, but Jo’s mother made them wait two years before walking down the aisle.
Jo was an only child from an Italian family and her mother had hoped for “a nice Italian boy” as a son-in-law but had to settle for a fiery red-haired Irishman.
Edward says although she may have been cool towards him in the beginning, he became the son she never had.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better mother-in-law. I think she treated me even better than her own daughter,” he says.
The Cripps flip through their wedding album. Jo says they wanted to get married on her mother’s birthday, February 12, but it didn’t fall on a Saturday and neither did Valentine’s Day so they chose instead the closest date to both.
The black and white photos do not reveal Edward’s red hair, but his smile is still the same. Jo’s pitch-black curls have made way for a short pepper-grey hairstyle but her smile too is exactly the same.
They were married on Saturday February 15 1958 in the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Roodepoort. They said their vows in front of 275 guests.
Jo, the ultimate blushing bride, looked radiant in a white gown made of Chantilly lace and a hoop skirt. She wore a hip-length veil of nylon tulle and carried a bouquet of orchids and tulips.
They honeymooned in St James along the False Bay coast and had their “honeymoon baby”, Sharon, 10 months later.
Eighteen months later they welcomed their second daughter, Diane, and their family was complete.
“I can’t believe those are our children. To think that they are going to be 60 and 58 is mind boggling. I don’t feel old enough to have such big kids,” says Edward.
The only heartache for them, says Jo, is that Diane lives in Australia with her two children and their only grandchildren.
The couple renewed their vows for their 25th and 50th anniversaries. They will be doing the same with their diamond anniversary, after which they have invited a few of their friends to a supper at the Italian Club in Rugby.
“I wanted to buy her a diamond ring for our diamond anniversary, but she refused,” says Edward.
“I said it’s a R1000 for each year. She’s worth it.”