A Maple Ridge couple has proven diamonds are forever as they make plans to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on Saturday.
Fred and Gerry Forder, met each other in Coquitlam at the Essondale School of Psychiatric Nursing in 1959 at Essondale Hospital now known as Riverview Hospital.
Fred, originally from Rossland, B.C., received a one-way bus ticket to the school along with his enrollment papers from his mother who was upset at his rowdy-ways and inability to find a job after graduating from high school.
When she handed him the ticket she told him the bus was leaving in an hour.
“I left home with my guitar and my black leather jacket and a little suitcase of clothes and the papers she had all signed up for me to go,” said the 81-year-old.
At the time, the government paid students of the program $200 a month to take the course and also gave them free room and board.
“I guess she thought that was a prime opportunity to get my feet back on the ground,” he said.
However, his mother gave him more than he could have anticipated.
Fred was in the class ahead of Gerry.
“I always had my eye on her in the cafeteria when she walked by,” said Fred.
Gerry, 80, originally from Mission, admitted she didn’t initially notice Fred, but after three months of meeting in the cafeteria she knew he was the one for her.
They probably first met at one of the school dances, explained Fred.
However, he still remembers the day he was out driving with a friend by Essondale and noticed Gerry and a friend in a marshy area by the side of the road.
“She was picking bulrushes with her girlfriend,’ he said. They stopped the car and the rest, of course, was history.
Fred and Gerry bonded over dancing. They took courses together in ballroom dancing, tango and foxtrot, and the cha-cha-cha.
Fred tried to teach Gerry how to play tennis.
“But that was sort of like banging my head against the wall,” he said, Gerry sitting beside him.
“She knows she wasn’t too good at the sport,” he chuckled.
They fell in love with each other, explained Fred, by doing as much as they could together.
The couple got married Nov. 21, 1960, halfway through the two year nursing program, in a tiny wedding ceremony at United Church in New Westminster. They had the first of their three children soon after.
Fred worked as a psychiatric nurse for five years before returning to school at the British Columbia Institute of Technology in the building technology program. He worked for a private company for a couple of years before being hired at the City of Burnaby as a plan checker and building inspector. After a brief period of renting a lodge on Gabriola Island with his sister, he returned to the City of Burnaby in the maintenance department where he was in charge of maintenance work in all city buildings.
Gerry left the nursing program when she first became pregnant, but entered the workforce again, about 10 years later, as a nurse’s aid at Royal Columbian Hospital, a hairdresser and when all three children were in school, she got a job at The Bay where she became a supervisor.
Fred was first to retire in 2000. Gerry retired six months later.
“She retired from that after she saw me sitting at home every time she would come home struggling. She said that’s enough,” said Fred.
And for the past 33 years the couple have explored another passion together – travelling. In July 1987 they went on a European vacation together.
They have since visited 68 countries – China and the continent of Africa being the most exciting.
“We just rumbled along,” said Gerry of their life together.
Fred and Gerry will be celebrating their wedding anniversary quietly, due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, on Saturday, Nov. 21.
“We might go out to dinner, just us,” said Gerry.
However, they attribute their lasting relationship to their ability to give and take with one another.
“Being able to compromise, I would think is the best secret. And stand by each other,” said Fred.
“Never go to bed mad,” added Gerry.
Fred and Gerry have three children – Mike, Barb and Jason – five grandchildren and three great grandchildren