By Josh Low
Bill and Sheila Carlson last month celebrated 50 years of marriage with a Mass at Armadale Parish and a Papal Blessing from Pope Francis, organised by their daughter and Fr Kazimierz Stuglik.
The couple spoke to The eRecord about their experience and what brought them together.
Bill and Sheila, a teacher/principal and shop assistant respectively, first met each other by chance one evening after attending a party organised by a local junior farmers group in Dardanup, Western Australia.
“My brother belonged to the local Dardanup Junior Farmers and they were having a ‘marron-ing party’ – in those days you could catch marron pretty freely at Wellington Dam, which was up towards Collie.
“He (my brother) didn’t have a girlfriend at the time and asked if I’d like to go with him, so I thought I would go to keep him company,” Sheila said.
In the meantime, the daughter of the boarding house owner where Bill boarded in Bunbury belonged to the Junior Farmers as well.
Not wanting to attend the event on her own, Bill and a visiting friend accompanied her for the evening, where he first met Sheila.
“We met that night and have been together ever since. We just clicked and knew that we were right for each other,” Sheila said.
“Bill would drop my friend off at work and we would see each other then and since my parents were dairy farmers he would also come out to the farm.
“We’d only been going out about 9 months before we got engaged and 18 months later we were married,” she said.
Bill and Sheila were married on 13 May 1967 at the Immaculate Conception Church in Dardanup and moved around Western Australia due to Bill’s career at schools in Jerdacuttup, Frankland, Jarrahdale, South Coogee and lastly at Forrestdale where he retired.
Because they lived in the school houses away from big cities, Bill and Sheila at times had to travel up to 90km a day just to attend Mass.
However, Sheila said the isolation helped their bond as a married couple grow stronger.
“We always did things for each other over the course of our marriage because we were in such an isolated area.
“There wasn’t anything but farms in the area, so we had to rely totally on each other, like if one of us was sick for example; I think that’s why we’ve got such a strong bond and why we’re still so close,” she said.
“When we got married we had absolutely nothing. We only had enough money to buy food for a week until the next pay cheque that came in, but we just relied on providence that things would be and we never went without.
“We’ve learnt that you should not overcommit monetary wise, particularly now in this society which tells you that you have to get this or have that.”
Recounting the challenges during their marriage, Mr and Mrs Carlson said the only thing they found difficult was the passing of their son David but found comfort in God and His plan.
Their 50 years of marriage has seen four children and 12 grandchildren, with both Bill and Sheila saying that the highlights of their marriage have been centred on the family.
“The best moments of course have been seeing our children grow up and live their lives, but especially the grandchildren as each grandchild has been a blessing in a different way and it has been very rewarding for us as grandparents to see each one grow up over all this time,” Bill said.
Bill said making joint decisions and loving each other through ‘thick and thin’ are fundamental to a happy marriage, with Sheila adding that forgiveness is important too.
“Never go to sleep on an argument. You always have to be forgiving and of course continually pray for each other,” she concluded.
Long-lasting marriages run in Sheila’s side of the family, with her siblings Gwen, Geoff, Marg and Murray this year celebrating 57, 53, 52, and 48 years of marriage respectively, for a total of 260 years of marriage.