Still dancing after 70 years
Ottawa couple celebrate wedding anniversary in style, writes MICHELLE ZILIO
Mary and Gerry Hughes are the queen and king of the Duke of Devonshire Retirement Home, according to Viviene Scott, the retirement home’s activities co-ordinator.
“It’s like having the Queen of England here. They don’t demand a lot of respect, but because of who they are, people respect them,” says Scott.
The Hughes, who spent 37 years with the Canadian foreign service, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on Feb. 28. at a party hosted by the home.
Not only does the couple garner respect from those who know them, they also have an incredible amount for each other. And they have since the moment they met.
It was 1941 when they were both boarding the train to Ottawa from Montreal. Gerry, of Sayabec, Que., saw Mary out of the corner of his eye and decided to approach her.
“I smoked in those days. I went to have a cigarette and before I could light it, it had been lit by him,” says Mary.
The couple began “courting” and going on dancing dates at the Château Laurier. To this day, they still enjoy dancing as much as they did in their 20s. They married in Ottawa in 1942 at St. John’s Church on Somerset Street. After the Second World War, Gerry was in London, having been recently discharged from the navy, when he was offered a position with The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. He wrote to Mary, who was raising their first child, Michael, in Canada, asking if she would be interested in travelling. Six months later, the Hughes arrived in Glasgow, Scotland, at Gerry’s first posting.
The couple lived in Scotland, England, Turkey, Lebanon, Sweden and Malaysia during their time with the foreign service. From riots to surprise dinner parties of 40 people at their doorstep, they faced many challenges. However, those challenges were countered by several special memories and achievements.
One of those highlights was Gerry’s establishment of the first Canadian posting in Beirut.
“It didn’t take him long because he was Mr. Canada in Beirut,” Mary says.
The Hughes say that during their time abroad, their marriage was never affected by their busy lifestyle. For them, their focus was their work and raising their three boys — Michael, Christopher, and Tim. “We are just such good friends,” says Mary. “I can always depend on him. He would never let me down, or anybody for that matter.”
At the anniversary party, family and friends gathered to celebrate one of the longest marriages the retirement home has ever seen.
And just like 70 years earlier, Mary and Gerry demonstrated their love for each other in their favourite way — by dancing.