'Marvellous' life together for 70 years

Grace and Fred Shield celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by...
Grace and Fred Shield celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Rosie Manins.
Seventy years ago, in a cold, 13th-century church, Fred Shield and Grace Suley said ''I do'' amidst the chaos of war-torn England.

Today, in Dunedin, they celebrate seven decades of marriage with their two children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Mr Shield (92) remembers clearly the ''marvellous life'' he has shared with his wife (91), who is unable to, as a result of her Alzheimer's.

Mr and Mrs Shield met in England as teenagers and were dating when World War 2 began.

He went into the Royal Air Force and was posted to Oban in Scotland, while she was part of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force in Stafford.

They planned to wed in April 1944 but Mr Shield was posted to South Africa so they brought the wedding forward to March 3.

As it was wartime, the church had no heating, flowers were scarce, and the bride wore a borrowed gown.

The photographer managed to send them two images of the ceremony before all others were destroyed by a German bomb the next day.

Mr Shield had seven days of embarkation leave so, after a five-day honeymoon, he left for South Africa and the newlyweds spent two years apart.

Reunited in post-war England, they had son Richard and daughter Jane, who were aged 13 and 6 respectively when the family emigrated to Australia in 1960.

Seven years later they settled in Dunedin where Mr Shield was a building supervisor and Mrs Shield a hospital admissions clerk.

They lived at Waikouaiti in retirement for 23 years before Mrs Shield's ailing health prompted a move to St Clair.

At the Highview Home and Hospital yesterday Mr and Mrs Shield enjoyed an early platinum wedding cake, surrounded by family.

They received cards from the Queen, prime minister and attorney-general, and flower bouquets from three members of their original wedding party.


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