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Happily married for 70 years, thanks to God


They met at a Catholic dance in Broken Hill and he swept her off her feet. Now after being happily married for 70 years, John and Eleanor Raftery have some good old fashioned advice for the newlyweds of today.

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“If they have faith in their life I would say to them, keep close to God because you’ll need Him. I can’t improve on what God would tell them, but after 70 years you realise why it is called a sacrament because it does need the grace of God helping you,” Eleanor, 91, told The Southern Cross.

“It’s also about being a bit tolerant and keeping love as the thing that helps you decide all big decisions.”

John, who will turn 94 on September 4, added that marriage was something that required ongoing attention and commitment.

“It’s not always smooth, but if you keep working at it you will get there. It means you have to work together,” he said.

When the Rafterys were married in Sacred Heart Cathedral in Broken Hill on September 7 1949 the world was a much different place. The aftermath of World War II was lingering, Ben Chifley was Australia’s Prime Minister and Pope Pius XII was the head of the Catholic Church.

The couple raised their family of four children in Broken Hill and were actively involved in the local Catholic Church and school. When the church was being renovated Eleanor held fundraising fetes in the backyard of their family home and John, an electrician by trade, was often called in to do some work around the building. He was a volunteer for Vinnies for many years, served as a money counter and was on the parish council.

“Our Catholic faith is very important to us,” Eleanor said.

After moving to Adelaide in 1987 the couple lived at Happy Valley for 15 years and for the past 17 years have been in Evandale and members of the Adelaide Cathedral parish.

For many years they attended Mass at Holy Name Church, St Peters and more recently, at St Peter Claver Church, Dulwich. John still drives them to attend Mass during the week, which includes participating in the Italian Women’s Rosary Group which they joined a long time ago.

Now in their nineties and still living independently, the couple attribute their longevity and good health to keeping active.

“We go to the gym twice a week at Campbelltown… it’s for the over 55s and we’re the oldest there, which is not surprising,” Eleanor laughed.

Just like their faith, their family – which now also includes seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren – has been an important part of their lives. They are hoping some of them will join them at the Anniversaries when their seven decades of marriage will be recognised by administrator delegate Fr Philip Marshall.

The Anniversaries Mass will be held at St Patrick’s Church, Grote Street, on September 22 at 2pm. If you or anyone in your parish or community is celebrating a significant anniversary of an ordination, profession or marriage, contact Archdiocesan Events before September 6 with details, on 8210 8220 or


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