A sym­phony of love

The Cairns Post - - NEWS -

A blind date more than 70 years ago has turned into one of the most en­dur­ing mar­riages in Cairns. Fred and Hazel Schipke (above) are cel­e­brat­ing 70 years of love.

A BLIND date more than 70 years ago has turned into one of the most en­dur­ing mar­riages in Cairns.

Red­lynch lass Hazel Tenni was 20 when she mar­ried for­mer army bu­gler and en­gi­neer Fred Schipke at St John’s Angli­can Church in Cairns on Novem­ber 8, 1947. Fred was 24 and not long back from WWII.

Each was quickly cap­ti­vated by the other but it was mu­sic that sealed the deal. On the day they met, Hazel vis­ited Fred’s fam­ily home and started play­ing the pi­ano. He got his cor­net out and joined her.

“Even at our wed­ding, we were on stage en­ter­tain­ing our guests,” says Fred, now 94.

They formed their own band, Hazel Schipke’s Dance Band, and be­came sought after for coun­try dances, wed­dings and race meet­ings.

“They played at Cook­town, Coen, Laura, Oak Park and Cairns Am­a­teurs ev­ery year,” says daugh­ter Robyn Bret­tell.

She re­mem­bers a child­hood full of mu­sic, fun and friends.

“When I was lit­tle, we slept at our grand­par­ents’ in Red­lynch on Fri­days and Satur­days. Mum and dad would come out on Sun­day morn­ings and we’d have a fam­ily day at Nan and Pop Tenni’s.

“But I never felt we missed out on any­thing be­cause of their mu­sic and com­mit­ments. We had a great fam­ily life.”

When she and sis­ter Julie were older, they went to some of the dances, learn­ing to waltz, gypsy tap and even the twist to their par­ents’ mu­sic.

“Mum, Dad and the band would all come home at one or two in the morn­ing, have tea and cake and talk about what a great night they’d had. They had some lovely friends, most of them mu­si­cal in some way.”

While the band re­tired after 49 years, Fred and Hazel didn’t. A mem­ber of Cairns brass bands for 82 years, Fred only stopped play­ing three years ago. Hazel, now 90, will play at this year’s Meals on Wheels Christ­mas lunch.

“Both have ab­so­lutely loved ev­ery mo­ment they played,” says Robyn. “And peo­ple loved them too. Mum could never fit ev­ery­thing in their cal­en­dar.”

The cou­ple’s 70 years of mar­riage have pro­duced two daugh­ters, four grand­chil­dren and 10 great-grand­chil­dren.

OFF ON RIGHT NOTE: Fred and Hazel Schipke re­ceive a mu­si­cal guard of hon­our at their 1947 wed­ding. BE­LOW: Fred and Hazel give one of their many per­for­mances at a Cairns re­tire­ment vil­lage.

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