Marriage survives early hiccup to endure 60 years

Warren and Lorraine Cooper celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary today. Photo: Philip Chandler
Warren and Lorraine Cooper celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary today. Photo: Philip Chandler
Four hours after Warren and Lorraine Cooper's wedding in Brisbane, Australia, on January 24, 1959, their marriage hit a speed bump.

Mr Cooper was driving his father-in-law's unfamiliar car on the way to the Gold Coast, and said his new wife was telling him he was not experienced with it and he should let her drive.

''In the end we had a damn argument and she told me she wished she had never married me.''

Mr and Mrs Cooper on their wedding day.
Mr and Mrs Cooper on their wedding day.
Despite that early hiccup, the Queenstown couple today celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.

A long-time former National Party MP, cabinet minister and two-time Queenstown mayor, Dunedin-born Mr Cooper (85) said he can remember first clapping eyes on Lorraine ''as though it was yesterday''.

In late 1956, she and two other Australian travelling friends asked Mr Cooper's father Bill, also known as ''Wicked Willie'', for jobs at his Queenstown hotel, Wicked Willies.

Mr Cooper asked his father, ''You're not going to employ those silly girls, are you?''

''He told me it was his hotel, he would do what he wished to do.''

When Mrs Cooper, nee Rees, returned to Australia, Mr Cooper pursued her.

''I proposed dozens of times,'' he said.

''Hundreds,'' she quipped.

''It wasn't that I didn't want to get married, I didn't want to leave all my family and friends in Australia.

''I thought when I said 'yes' we were going to be over there, but then he changed his mind, and I have never regretted coming back [to Queenstown].''

Asked about their marriage, Mr Cooper said: ''It would not have been possible for any person that married Lorraine to be unhappy.

''I consider myself extremely fortunate to have lived that period of time and enjoyed the whole of the marriage.''

Having served 36 years in local or central government, Mr Cooper said his wife coped well being a mother of five ''with an absentee husband for the greater percentage of that time''.

Mrs Cooper (81) confirmed it was tough with young children, especially moving to Mosgiel, when Mr Cooper first got into national politics, then Wellington, when he became a cabinet minister.

''We've had to develop a fairly thick skin over the years because politics is not an easy life, for a family, particularly.

''I'm very lucky that I inherited my mother's and father's very placid natures, because we've had our ups and downs, everybody does.''

The couple had five children - Jo died of cancer, aged 32 - and also have 11 grandchildren and, just in the past six months, two great-grandchildren.

Asked what makes a lasting marriage, Mr Cooper said he had only one piece of advice: ''Choose the right person.''

The Coopers planned a low-key celebration today after jointly celebrating their anniversary in Australia late last year, with two of Mrs Cooper's brothers and their wives, who were also married within six months of them.

''We're all going strong,'' she said.

-By Philip Chandler

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