Not many couples celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in hospital, with one of them suffering from pneumonia.
Pat and Frank Hackett, of Success, did just that on Thursday, May 17, with Pat visiting Frank in St John of God Murdoch and patiently sitting with him at his bedside.
Two of their four daughters, Donna and Bernadette, brought a huge arrangement of roses to the hospital, where Donna presented them with a papal blessing from Pope Benedict XVI, and certificates of congratulations from the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Governor-General, WA Premier and WA Opposition Leader, among others.
Hospital chaplain Fr Hugh Galloway, once WA Catholic Women’s League chaplain – said Mass in the hospital chapel that day, and Pat read the responsorial psalm and alleluia verse, whilst Frank watched the proceedings on TV in his room.
Applecross parish priest and Pat’s cousin, Fr Peter Whitely, blessed the couple and had arranged the papal blessing, as they had been long-time foundation Applecross parishioners, living five houses down from the present church in Ardross Street.
Daughter Ann-Maree sent a special album with photos from their wedding day at St Patrick’s Church, Fremantle, including photos of family and extended family.
The couple, both 87, have 14 grandchildren – seven boys and seven girls – and five great-grandchildren under four, three boys and two girls, with another girl due to be born.
Pat was an inaugural member of the Applecross CWL, for 43 years since the branch started in 1969, and became secretary for 11½ years, president and treasurer, and “always had a position”, she said.
She became international secretary for WA of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations during the 1970s and 80s, and Frank was a member of the Knights of the Southern Cross, St Vincent de Paul, and the Holy Name Society until Vatican II, served on the altar and sang in the choir with Pat.
The couple were the oldest choir members at St Benedict’s, Applecross, “since the Midnight Mass at Canning Bridge hall” before the church was built, and “came home with our throats raw,” she recalls.
In 1959, seven years after they were married, and while expecting daughter Louise, she became a catechist, a role she fulfilled for many years, and is “still commissioned a catechist”, Pat said.
Their nuptial Mass, in 1952, was celebrated by Shenton Park parish priest Mgr Edward Collins (Frank’s parish) and Fr Tom O’Byrne OMI, with a guard of honour either side of the aisle by the Children of Mary sodality for the month of May, Mary’s month.
As Pat arrived at the altar, the sodality president removed the Child of Mary blue cloak from around her shoulders and placed it over the rail around Mary’s statue.
A “wonderful surprise” was the singing by St Patrick’s choir during the Mass.
Pat is the second daughter of Frank and Eulalie Collins (nee Whitely) of Fremantle, in a family of 13 and Frank is one of four children of Norah and Paddy Hackett, formerly of Kilkenny, Ireland.
They first met in the Army at the Signals office at Swan Barracks, Perth while Frank was awaiting discharge from the Army.
They re-met five years later at the Stella Maris Seaman’s Institute, Fremantle where Frank was there with the young St Vincent de Paul men from Shenton Park and Pat was a hostess with her sisters and friends.
Her two sisters, Lal and Marie, were to be her bridesmaids.
Frank bought a block of land at 125 Ardross Street and the couple arrived back from honeymoon to live in a caravan, while family helped build their home, where they lived for 59½ years, and raised their four girls who attended St Benedict’s school nearby.
The school, which opened in February 1953 with 50 children, had no toilet facilities at first so nuns and students used the Hackett home’s facility, where she said “the children were like little brumbies”.
The school was used as the original “church” until the old church, now the hall, was built. The new St Benedict’s church was opened four years ago in their street.
“When we built the house, we had no idea we were going to have the church there,” Pat said.
Frank was employed as manager of United Artists Trans-American Film Company, starting at 15 years of age, and with war years in the Army, was there for 46 years.
Pat resigned from the Navy where she was a signalwoman in Communications, to marry and became a “home engineer”, doing volunteer work over those 59½ years.
She has a prodigious memory and is a historian and writer, when not nursing Frank in recent years.
Last year they moved to Southern Cross Retirement Village, in Success, which is near two of their daughters and their families.
They have made their “diamond” marriage a success, living out their vows “in sickness and in health” and have been very blessed!