It was Harold Wild’s 27th birthday and the best present he’s ever had was when 21 year-old Winifred accepted his marriage proposal.
That was 63 years ago, and it’s evident from his gentle strokes of her arm and her soft brown-eyed gaze towards him that they are still very much in love.
Their anniversary was on November 10, but sadly they could not go out and celebrate as Winifred, 84, has a brain tumour, diagnosed about two years ago.
Harold, 90, has had a stroke and uses a walking stick but looks like he’s in good health. Maybe it’s the pasta. He does most of the cooking and his preferred dish is spaghetti alle vongole, although his version is made with shells instead of the more traditional spaghetti – so the clams get into the shell.
Winifred worked at Fletcher’s & Cartwright in Cape Town before having children. Harold was an engineer and a salesman. Harold was based in Italy during World War II and was an atheist, but watching people lying on the side of the road dying changed his mind.
“I was 20 then and became a Christian 20 years later, it changed my life,” he said.
Later, as missionaries, in 1972, the couple booked passage on boat with their three children, Teresa, Michael and Wendy, and sailed for Italy.
They lived in Perugia, where Harold started a Christian group, which is still going strong. In 2005, they moved to Britain because their children were there. Later, they returned to South Africa, settling in Plumstead. The couple have two grandchildren, Carl Wild and Andrea Pavoni, and say the recipe for a good marriage is give and take “Marriage is not a bed of roses. It has ups and downs and arguments, and so you need to understand each other and rectify things,” says Harold.
Asked who does the cooking, Harold says Winifred is a good cook but he’s a better one, especially his Italian dishes. She looks at him in shock, and he strokes her hand.