Couple stick to their vows

Chris and Melodie Potgieter celebrate their diamond anniversary on Friday.

By date number three Melodie Potgieter knew Chris was “marriage material”, so when he popped the question after five years of dating the answer was a resounding yes.

On Friday the couple from Table View celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and plan to celebrate it on Sunday by hosting a lunch for close friends and family.

Ms Potgieter (nee Williams) was only 14 when she met Christiaan De Wet Potgieter, 16, while on a night out on the town with her friends and parents.

They were at a night club in town called Balalaika and her friend Crystal had arranged Chris to be her dance partner for the evening, said Ms Potgieter.

“He was terribly thin. I was not thin,” she said.

They danced all night but it was a good couple of months until they had their first official date.

“We went to the bioscope in Riebeeck Street and watched A Magnificent Obsession with Rock Hudson. During the movie they flashed a notice on the screen to say Kennedy had been assassinated. It was so eerie. There was a moment of complete silence then everyone started talking at once,” said Ms Potgieter.

Mr Potgieter said the bad news wasn’t enough to put a damper on the date and it was soon followed by many more.

“He was very interesting to me. He wore the strangest of clothes. His jeans were so tight they were like leggings,” said Ms Potgieter.

They got engaged in 1967 and were married a year later because Ms Potgieter first had to collect her trousseau.

“I knew maybe after the third date this was marriage material. We laughed at the same things. We had a similar sense of humour.”

“I knew she was the one when she decided,” said Mr Potgieter. They were married on Saturday June 8, 1968 at St George’s Cathedral in town.

Ms Potgieter’s nerves were shot when she woke up to see it pouring down with rain outside.

“I went to the hairdresser in Stuttafords on the corner of Hout and Adderley streets to do my hair. They sprayed lacquer onto my hair so that it didn’t move half an inch. It was like cement.”

By the time she was ready to walk down the aisle, the rain had stopped but the ground was still wet.

“We won’t discuss what the bottom off my dress looked like.”

They were married at 3pm in the presence of 240 guests.

Her father, Percy Williams held onto her tightly as he walked her down the aisle and cried as he gave his only child away.

“When the organist started playing the wedding march, my nerves started. The aisle looked a mile long. But by the time I got to the alter my nerves suddenly disappeared.”

They spent their honeymoon at the then “newly opened” Four Seasons hotel in Durban.

They had two girls and a son and now have four grandchildren and one great-grand child.

Ms Potgieter worked as a paralegal and retired in 2016 after falling ill.

Mr Potgieter started his career as a salesman for OK Bazaars Furniture and became the manager of Broms Furnishers in Woodstock until they closed in 2011.

“I would go back to work tomorrow,” said Mr Potgieter.

Last year Ms Potgieter developed septicaemia and fell into a coma for a few days.

She spent three weeks in intensive care and had all her toes amputated on her right foot. But she believes she recovered because she “still has lots to do”.

For Mr Potgieter it was a dark period during which his top priority was nursing his wife back to health.

“The past 50 years were training me for these past seven months because we made vows. Through sickness and in health,” he said.

They each sit in arm chairs next to each other in the living room. Behind them is a wall filled with 50 years of memories.

One black and white picture captured the couple, much younger, walking hand in hand on holiday in the then Rhodesia, smiling for the camera.

“That is still how I see her today,” says Mr Potgieter, “my bride.”