ST Joseph's parishioners Pat and John Perkins were honoured with an Apostolic Blessing from Pope Francis as they celebrated 60 years of marriage recently.
Taken completely by surprise at Saturday night Mass on Australia Day, the couple received the blessing from parish priest Fr John McHugh in front of delighted parishioners, family and friends.
A Kiwi girl and a born-and-bred Aussie, their lives were drawn together when Pat came to Australia with her parents Jack and Blanche Barry as they took up the licence of the Imperial Hotel in Quirindi.
A farm boy from his birth, John grew up on the family property owned by his parents Bill and Nancy Perkins at Willow Tree, and boarded at De La Salle College in Armidale, while Pat was being educated by the Sisters of Charity at St Thomas More College in Bright-Le-Sands and at St Vincent's in Pott's Point.
Their paths crossed at a local dance after Pat came home to help her parents run the hotel for a short period before returning to New Zealand where she worked for three years.
John, meanwhile, had secured his wool classing ticket and had been gaining even more experience in farming and grazing on properties around Willow Tree. He also worked in partnership with his brother Michael on 1000 acres known as Cattle Creek.
John and Pat's life together began on January 23, 1960, with their marriage at St Brigid's Catholic Church in Quirindi.
Pat's attendants were her sister Margaret and John's sister Helen with her school friend Del Furze as the matron of honour, while John was supported by his brother Michael and mates David Steffenson and Robert Hancock.
After a wedding reception in St Alban's Hall, the couple set off on their honeymoon in John's ute, making their way to Melbourne before crossing Bass Strait by sea for a road tour of Tasmania.
After their honeymoon, they lived in a rented house at Warrah Creek, while John continued to work with his father at Warrah Park. When his father and uncles started farming the blacksoil plains on their property Round Island, Pat and John were able to move into a renovated cottage at Warrah Park - where Pat recalled with amusement the uphill hike to the outdoor toilet.
Becoming parents for the first time with the arrival of their son Timothy 1961 brought great joy, with the birth of their daughter Angela in 1963 adding to their happiness. Their lives were shattered soon after when Timothy was diagnosed with leukaemia just after his third birthday and hospitalised in Quirindi before being treated at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney. Sadly his young life ebbed away at the age of three years and 11 months and the little family had to try and pick up the pieces for their little girl.
In 1966 the couple welcomed their second daughter Melissa, followed by Jonathon (Joe) in December 1967. Their family was complete with the birth of Nicholas in 1970 and life was a busy whirl for Pat caring for her little ones.
Pat and John Perkins eventually took a huge leap of faith and invested in their own contract harvesting business, with John following the harvest up to the Moree plains and over the border to lower Queensland before moving the machinery back to the Liverpool Plains for the later crops.
In 1975, John took up a position as manager of the property Nandewar near Boggabri where production involved mainly sheep before a move into cotton growing in 1980.
The family became involved in the local community and Catholic parish with the children attending Sacred Heart School and enjoying other activities on offer in the town.
As the high school years approached the girls went off to board at Loreto College in Sydney while the boys attended St Joseph's College at Hunter's Hill.
In 1995, the couple invested in their own place, purchasing Tyan at Mary's Mount where they farmed crops and ran cattle.
As the years rolled on and the children flew the nest, John and Pat decided to call it a day on farming and seven years ago they moved into a house on a large block in Edward Street.
Pat was offered a position at Maggs Boutique, a role she thoroughly enjoyed as she mixed with the customers and still had time for the grandchildren.
The word "retirement" is used very loosely for John Perkins as had earlier become involved in the Gunnedah Red Devils Rugby Club during plans to build a club house with amenities. He had always been a fan of rugby, playing in his younger days and helping to set up junior rugby in Quirindi. He served 8-9 years as president of the Quirindi Rugby Club and was honoured with life membership.
At Gunnedah Rugby Club, the B&S New Year's Eve balls provided a huge boost to the club's funds after earlier attaining a grant from NSW Sport and Recreation. This saw the complex completed with grassed fields and a well appointed club house. John served as President from 1997 to 2001 and is listed on the honour board as a life member. He was also involved with the NSW Country Rugby League, serving three years on the board. As the Red Devils' unofficial groundsman, John is still on hand to help keep the fields in top condition.
When plans were under way to extend Lundie House, John accepted an invitation from Terry Hagley to become involved in planning and fund-raising for the new nursing home. He was still involved in the board of management when the complex was taken over by Mackellar Care. After 12 years in the chair, he retired in October 2019.
John has also devoted a great deal of his voluntary time and energy to Wean Picnic Race Club, McAuley Hostel and St Joseph's Church Parish, where he is still involved at many levels. When Bill Clegg retired from the Armidale Diocesan Investment Group (ADIG) John took his place and remained a board member for 30 years.
Over the years John and Pat have delighted in the arrival of seven grandchildren and they follow their lives with great interest. Their daughter Angela and her husband Brendan are raising three children on the land at Bellata, while Melissa is events manager at the Royal Flying Doctor Service head office in Canberra. Joe Perkins is a local builder, while his wife Maryanne runs her own fitness centre.They have three offspring, while Nicholas has a freight business on the Gold Coast where he lives with his wife Michelle and daughter Emily.
Looking back over the past 60 years, Pat and John have stuck together with great faith through the good times and the hard times. They both believe that love is important, with a lot of "give and take" to make it all work. John paid tribute to his wife Pat who ensured that everything ran smoothly on the home front while he was working away or involved in other activities.
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