At 102, Douglas Wilton and his wife Adriana look forward to yet another milestone.
"We’ve been together 49 years and married for 42.” – Douglas Wilton, 102 Australian Unity Home Care Service customer.
It was in an Adelaide hotel and Douglas remembers it as if it were yesterday, not way back at the end of the 1960s.
“She was a waitress in the pub where I used to go for my counter meals,” Douglas says. “That’s my fondest memory.”
Adriana also remembers that first encounter well. “He used to come to the pub every day for lunch. I thought he was very kind that first day,” she says.
“I asked him if he was married and he said he was, but his wife didn’t like Australia and went back to England.
“One day he asked me to come and choose fabric for upholstering a lovely wing-backed chair, so I went and then he asked me out to lunch. We’ve been together ever since.”
Within six months, Douglas and Adriana had moved into a flat together, but it was a fair while before they tied the knot.
The love story between the British-born fitter with a passion for cars and cricket and the Dutch-born waitress with the no-nonsense attitude spans two states and almost five decades.
Douglas attributes his longevity to “marrying a younger woman”. “We’ve been together 49 years and married for 42,” Douglas says.
Adriana says she has “spoilt him rotten”. “I do everything for him — cooking … taking him to the bathroom in the middle of the night … everything.”
The couple relocated from South Australia to Tweed Heads in northern New South Wales 23 years ago. They moved into a retirement community 12 years ago and live independently with support from a Home Care Package and services from Australian Unity.
They have funding for a level 3 Home Care Package and this entitles them to a carer who comes for an hour every morning. Duties include showering Douglas, washing up and making the beds. They also have a cleaner who visits every two weeks to keep the house clean and tidy and someone who takes Adriana shopping fortnightly.
“They are all lovely,” says Adriana of her Care Workers. “But if I had to pick one out, I think my husband’s favourite is Damien. I think Douglas enjoys bonding with another male. They joke together and sometimes they will even start singing together.
“I find him very kind and helpful — and he does a very good job of the cleaning, too.”
Douglas has been in a wheelchair for six years and stopped driving 13 years ago, but Adriana is still behind the wheel. Every week they go to lunch at Seagulls Rugby League Club in Tweed Heads.
“I was born in the Netherlands and came to Australia at 19,” says Adriana. “I’m a no-nonsense sort of person and can be stubborn if I have to be.
“We never had a marriage that he went to the pub with his mates and I went out with the girls. If we go out, we go out together. Our friends say we are joined at the hip.
“We go to Seagulls for lunch and he likes a little flutter. If you can’t do that at 102, what can you do?”
Douglas was born and bred in Bedford, most famous for being the home of 17th century author John Bunyan, who wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress. Entertainer Ronnie Barker, of The Two Ronnies fame, also came from Bedford.
Douglas’s working life was spent as a fitter at General Motors — first in Britain at Vauxhall Motors in Luton and then at Holden in South Australia.
“It was a pretty good job,” he says. “I came here [Australia] because we knew other people who came here and liked it, so we gave it a go. My sister was here. She made it to 98.”
Like so many Englishmen, Douglas brought his love of cricket to Australia — and that interest has continued. He saw Don Bradman play in Adelaide and still loves watching cricket on television, although macular degeneration means his failing eyesight makes it difficult to see.
Adriana confirms they both barrack for Australia and prefer Twenty20 and 50-over matches to Tests, which she says are too long and boring.
The couple had a big bash for Douglas’s 100th and 101st birthdays. His 102nd birthday was a quieter affair, and they are yet to decide how to celebrate their anniversary milestone.
Words: Maria Triaca