Mick and Elsie go platinum

Elsie and Mick Heath celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary today.
Elsie and Mick Heath celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary today. Adam Hourigan

MARRIED in the middle of a war, Maclean couple Ronald and Elsie Heath will today celebrate 70 years of married life.

Seventy years ago the couple, who were both serving in the armed forces - Ronald, or Mick as he is known in the army and Elsie, nee Gillespie, in the air force - snatched a weekend of leave to get married in Grafton's Christ Church Cathedral.

The couple's daughter, Janice Apps, said her mum and dad often joked that getting married allowed her mum to get out of the air force.

It was a long-distance marriage at first.

"Dad was serving in New Guinea, I was 11 months old when he first saw me," Mrs Apps said.

Ronald and Elsie met just before the war when they were both employed on Owen Ryan's farm, Ronald as a farmhand and Elsie as a domestic.

"They didn't go out at first. In fact mum used to tell us how she used to do dad's hair so he could go out with another girl," Mrs Apps said.

"Mum must have held a torch for him, though. He was handsome and well-known around the area as a country singer and yodeller.

"In fact he was famous for riding his bicycle from Maclean to Harwood, yodelling all the way."

After the war the couple lived in Maclean while Ronald worked at the Broadwater sugar mill.

Soon after they moved to a farm at Coldstream and then to Timmsdale between Grafton and Dorrigo.

The big change for the young family came when Ronald scored a job on the railway and the family moved to Sydney, where they lived from around 1950 to the early 1970s.

"Mum and dad eventually got sick of living in Sydney and moved back here," Mrs Apps said.

Several years later Mrs Apps did the same to be closer to her parents.

"Dad did a bit of work for Schaeffer's Hardware in Maclean and also for the local produce store before he retired."

This afternoon the family will gather at grandchild Andrew Tom's home for a small family gathering to celebrate their milestone.

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