For Michael and Bernice Dutton from Southfield, who will be celebrating their 50th golden wedding anniversary
this Saturday August 26, it was love at first sight, and five decades on, the depth of their feelings for each other has not waned.
Michael James, 75, is originally from Cowes, on the Isle of Wight and Bernice, 68, is originally from Plymouth, in England.
The Dutton couple met when Michael, then 24, visited Bernice’s father at their home. As fortune would have it, it was Bernice, 16 at the time, who opened the door for him.
The relationship between Michael and Bernice’s father was a good one, they both had been in the navy, in the engineering department. Michael was chosen to be a best man at the wedding of Bernice’s eldest sister.
Recalling the first time she set eyes on him, Bernice says: “He sat there and I just fancied him right away. He kept winking at me, and I thought I like this.”
Michael says the minute he saw her opening the door, he knew she was the one for him. “ It was love at first sight.”
At the time, Michael served in the Royal Navy in England, and he was posted to Canada. When he got there, to his surprise, he received a letter. “The letter was from Bernice saying that she was looking forward to seeing me again.”
Fate took its course. After spending three months abroad, Michael was eager to get home. “Her father had told me when I wanted to come up and visit, I should. He thought I was coming up to see him. I was actually coming to see her,” chuckles Michael.
From using her father as an excuse to see Bernice, things progressed.
Michael was called back to the navy for 10 months but decided to tie the knot before he left. While pleased to have Michael join the family, Bernice’s father, however, could not resist calling him a cradle snatcher.
The wedding was planned in a hurry and a date was set for August 26, 1967. “We got married, had a honeymoon in London for a week, then my husband went on a quick course, then off he went to the Persian Gulf. He was gone for 13 months. I waited for him. I was not interested in other men. I waited for my husband to come back, “ says Bernice.
Michael had sent his wife a telegram to say when he would be flying back home. When she received the good news, she went to have her hair done and awaited his arrival. Not recognising her with her hairdo, he walked right past her.
Shortly afterwards, Michael left the navy due to his family responsibilities.
In 1977, the Dutton family was on vacation in Cape Town, and on the plane going back, the couple decided to settle here. In 1980 they bought their house in Southfield and it has been their home
Michael joined the South African Navy and worked there until he retired.
The Duttons are the proud parents of two sons, Darren, 47, who is an artisan and Adrian, 45, who is a commander in the navy, and two grandsons.
The Duttons say many people have asked them how they have managed to be together for 50 years, and they find that the answers are simple. Michael says: “Never go to bed angry, as you don’t know if you are going to
wake up in the morning and if you go to bed angry the person
who is staying behind will feel terrible.”
“Youngsters today if they’ve a problem, they should work at
that problem to keep their marriage together, especially if they have children. The children
are the ones who suffer,” says Bernice.