The secret to six decades of marriage
IF SHE closes her eyes, she's still there.
Summer, in the early 1950s, coming home from a dance, giddy with excitement.
It's 3am but it doesn't stop her running down the dusty path, bursting through the back-door and waking her mother to tell her she's just met the man for her.
She barely hears her father grumbling about the time as she floats to her room, humming as she thinks of the Darling Downs dairy farmer who asked her to dance.
In her wildest dreams she can't imagine what's ahead.
That a romance - sparked that night in country Queensland - would grow into an enduring love, one still evident six decades later as Ron and Marie Harth sit together at Baycrest Retirement Village.
The bond forged in their near 64-year marriage is so strong in fact, that when Marie was moved into aged care, Ron's health deteriorated so rapidly his doctor warned living apart would likely kill him.
As of six months ago, having left his home at Dundowran Beach, he's there with her, just a few steps down the hall.
His memory is failing. Her body is failing. But like every other challenge in life, they are determined to face it together.
Marie's never had to wait until Valentine's Day to enjoy flowers.
All around her room, amid treasured family photos, plaques and cards addressed to a loved mother, there are orchids, her favourite.
Turning an old shed into a greenhouse filled with 1000 orchids has been just one of Ron's many great gestures since the moment he first spotted a "good looking Sheila" across the room.
But Ron reckons there's a lot more to a long-lasting marriage than flowers and chocolates.
"We made every decision together," he says.
"Talk about it, agree on it and then go forward together."
The couple married in June, 1954.
As newly-weds, they lived in an old barn.
The war had not been kind to the dairy industry. Ron came into the marriage with little to offer but love and hard work. Marie had some savings from her time working with her father at the KR Darling Downs bacon factory.
But together they survived the toughest years of their lives, growing grain through crippling drought and eventually raising enough to buy a property and build a family home closer to Dalby.
They raised four children in the region - Kay, Greg, Janene and Wayne.
Over the years they tried their hands at poultry farming.
Ron also managed a soya bean crushing plant.
Early in their marriage, Ron suffered a heart attack. His doctor told him to "drink three to four glasses of red wine a week", advice Ron says he studiously followed for most of his life.
When a workplace injury caused Ron to re-think his career about 30 years ago, the couple looked to the Fraser Coast and decided to start a piggery at Torbanlea.
For a time, they had about 300 sows on the property with Ron making weekly trips to the Nolan's Meats factory at Gympie.
When it was time to retire they moved to Dundowran, joined a local tour company and took trips to Tasmania, the Murray River and other parts of Australia.
Despite all they have overcome, Ron and Marie say their greatest achievement is raising their children who between them, have added nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren to the family.
"We're glad we raised them in the country.
"My happiest memories are of watching them grow up.
"As a couple we had always worked together and talked things out and lived by the rule that if you can't pay for something, you don't get it.
"We raised the kids that way and they all went on to do the same with their families. We're most proud of that."