Margaret and Stan Sykes
Today, on Valentine’s Day, Stan Sykes will do as he does every day; visit Margaret, his beloved wife of 66 years, at Resthaven Bellevue Heights, enjoy a hearty lunch and share the day together.
Margaret’s world changed in October last year, when she slipped and broke both her leg and arm. This most unfortunate accident meant she spent several months in hospital, before moving into a spacious room overlooking Sturt Gorge at Resthaven Bellevue Heights a few weeks ago.
‘It’s a lovely room,’ she says. ‘I can look at the view all day.’
Margaret and Stan are keen to learn about all the activities that are available at Resthaven. Stan encourages Margaret to work on building her strength, encouraging her to join the physiotherapist run exercise classes. She can also join in the chair-based exercises twice a week if she chooses to.
‘I don’t want to rush into things, but I will go and have a look at the exercise class,’ Margaret says.
Stan can join in too, if he chooses.
The couple are dedicated to each other, having met as teenagers at a dance in Leeds, in the United Kingdom.
‘She was dancing with one of my mates, and I thought “I’d like to dance with her” – and that was that!’
‘We started going out together and got on famously. We had lots in common, reading, walking, dancing, music.’
‘We were married in a beautiful Catholic church in the middle of Crag Wood that dated back to Norman Times. Spike Milligan was married in the same church!’
Stan worked in the steelworks in Leeds, which he says was a filthy city then, due to the coal burning, and smoke filled skies. Working seven days a week to pay the mortgage, Stan decided to leave the UK for a better life in Australia as ‘Ten Pound Poms’.
With four children in tow, the couple moved to Australia, settling in greater Wollongong to set up home in a large, free-standing home on a quarter acre block near the sea, schools and transport in a beautiful part of the coast.
‘We got the shock of our lives when we arrived – it was stinking hot!’, Stan recalls.
‘We came for a better lifestyle and we found it. Having been brought up in a small terrace house, to then have a home with a bedroom for each of the children was marvellous. We’re happy that we came here. It was hard to leave friends and family behind, but our children benefitted and we had good neighbours and were very happy.’
Stan worked at the Port Kembla Steelworks until his retirement at age 58. He and Margaret then enjoyed many years travelling throughout Australia.
‘We had a ball, travelling around.’
The couple moved to South Australia to be closer to their daughters.
As for a secret to their long marriage, Stan said, ‘We’ve had our ups and downs, but more ups than downs.’
Margaret says, ‘He’s my Valentine. Well, I haven’t got anyone else!’