By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on June 21, 2019
ON THE same day that petrol rationing was being considered across the country and Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh celebrated his 28th birthday, now-Albany retirees Hank and Clara were walking down the aisle in The Netherlands to become Mr and Mrs Van Der Beek.
The 94 and 93-year-old lovebirds celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last week at their home in Ingenia Gardens Yakamia and told the Weekender they still had vivid memories of June 10, 1949.
“She did look fairly nice,” Mr Van Der Beek said, smiling at his wife.
“We had my mother and father and her mother and father, and our friends and family.”
But the happy couple’s special day was threatened by the possibility of having no house to live in.
No house meant no marriage.
“It was very hard to get a house, there was a shortage,” Mr Van Der Beek said.
“But there was one and we applied, and we got it, so we could be married.”
The pair’s romance started the good old-fashioned way – letter writing.
“It was between 1945 and 1948 and I was in Indonesia with the marines and I met her brother,” Mr Van Der Beek explained.
“He had a picture of Clare and I said I liked her picture and asked if I could pen pal with her.”
“We met in 1948 and got married in 1949, then we emigrated to Australia in 1952,” Mrs Van Der Beek added.
“Australia was saying, ‘yes, please, we need more people here’ and Holland was saying, ‘go, go’.”
The Van Der Beeks lived in Melbourne for a stint but didn’t stay long as it was “chock-a-block”, then moved to Fremantle and later settled in Gidgegannup in 1958 on a farm.
Mrs Van Der Beek said they had always wanted to come to Albany because it has the “perfect” climate and snapped up the opportunity to move.
Mr Van Der Beek got to make his mark on the town by helping construct Dog Rock Motel.
But now, the answer you’ve all been waiting for: what’s the secret to a marriage spanning seven decades and surviving a 14,000km emigration?
“Well, first of all, she puts up with me,” Mr Van Der Beek laughed.
“And I put up with him,” his wife smirked.
“We’ve been really lucky,” Mr Van Der Beek continued.
“We don’t have many arguments.”
“And we don’t have any children,” Mrs Van Der Beek said.
“I think when you have children, you’re divided, but I have always been able to stand behind him and support him, and he support me.”