Pham Van Vui first spotted his bride-to-be, Nguyen Thi Than, when she was singing in the church choir. Vui thought Than “looked lovely” but she was only 13 so there was no chance of a relationship.
Seven years later, love did blossom and on August 4 1952 they were married in Loc Tan by a visiting Catholic priest. They lived in rural areas of Vietnam and raised a family of 11 children – five boys and six girls. Life was tough and the family had little, but there was plenty of love and their Catholic faith was strong.
Being in remote locations they were not greatly impacted by wars raging around them, however in the late 1970s they wanted to escape the Communist regime. One by one, sometimes in pairs, the siblings fled on boats bound for a new life in Australia.
All made the journey safely and settled in the north western suburbs of Adelaide. They then set about getting their parents here under refugee ‘family reunion’ terms.
As is the way with the Vietnamese, family is central to their life and visiting their Ferryden Park home it is evident Vui, now 95 and Than, 85 are treated with great respect and love by their extended family.
Their Catholic faith has always been important to them and they have been members of the Vietnamese Catholic community at Pooraka since they arrived 27 years ago.
And so what is their secret to a long and successful marriage?
“Being Catholic, there is always a belief,” Vui explained. “We live for the children. Of course we have our faults and we argue, but at the end of the day we live for the kids. As Catholics we forgive and forget and move on.”
Than’s thoughts mirror those of her husband.
“Yes we still argue even today. His hearing is not the best, so (when we argue) I go out in the garden and just let it be,” she laughed.
Both agreed that their greatest joy in marriage was being surrounded by family – their children, 21 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
Son Minh, who is the second youngest of their children, said he was forever grateful to his parents and older siblings for all their hard work over the years.
He said his family often joked that they were the ‘happy Phamily’ – a play on words, as his father’s name means ‘happy’ or ‘joyful’.
“During our celebration for my parents 60th wedding anniversary back in 2012, we all agreed that our extended family have been very blessed with grace.
“For all of us, from a small town with very little in Vietnam and to be living in Adelaide, Australia, we do see that we are a lucky and happy bunch!”
The special anniversaries of more than 90 married couples were recognised at the Mass, including John and Eleanor Raftery from Evandale who have been married for 68 years. Anniversaries of ordinations and professions were also celebrated.