Surrounded by an assortment of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, family and friends, Sid and Marie Gasper celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
Mr and Mrs Gasper grew up together in a small town called Syriam in Burma; they have known each other since they were five and six years old respectively with only four houses separating the two families.
With the beginning of the Burma Campaign in 1942 in the South East Asian theatre of the Second World War, Mrs Gasper and her family fled to the relative safety of Calcutta, India.
Mr Gasper, along with his parents and siblings, stayed behind and both believed that they would never see each other again but that was not to be the case.
Following the end of the war, Mrs Gasper and her family returned to their home town and, at the age of 16, Mrs Gasper was reunited with her childhood friend, Sid Gasper.
Sparks flew immediately but Mrs Gasper owes her marriage to her beloved bicycle which she used to ride all the time.
The chain on Mrs Gasper’s cycle broke so Mr Gasper offered to fix it for her; it was the beginning of their relationship, their childhood friendship blossomed into love and marriage was on the horizon; but marriage would’ve been out of the question had Mrs Gasper chosen a different vocation in life.
Before Mrs Gasper got reacquainted with Mr Gasper she was a postulant with the Little Sisters in Calcutta. “I wanted to become a nun,” she said.
However, the Little Sisters suspected that Mrs Gasper had tuberculosis; they thought it was best she return home and take care of her health as life in the convent was very demanding.
It turned out that Mrs Gasper did not have tuberculosis, but it made her realise that God had other plans for her.
“The Lord wanted me for Sid,” she said.
Their relationship became even more serious through a series of letters, the only means of keeping in touch when Mr Gasper travelled to Singapore as part of a training program to aid him in becoming a mechanical engineer.
He came back to Syriam nine months later faced with the nerve-racking challenge of seeking permission from Mrs Gasper’s father for her hand in marriage.
Despite the nerves, Mr Gasper was aided by Mrs Gasper’s sister.
“Marie’s sister played a big role in the proposal,” Mr Gasper said. “She played the role of negotiator when I was going to ask Marie’s father if I could marry her.”
Mrs Gasper simply laughs. She had a feeling that Mr Gasper was going to propose to her and knew that her family would have no objections. Apart from the fact that they knew each other very well as their fathers worked for the Burma Oil Company, Mrs Gasper describes herself as ‘daddy’s girl’; she always got what she wanted from him.
They were married at St Francis Xavier’s Church on June 25, 1952 and arrived in Australia in 1967, where they were met by Father Foley at the airport, who sponsored them into the country.
Fr Foley remained a close friend of the Gaspers; he married three of their children and the Gaspers were personally invited by Fr Foley to Geraldton in 1981 when he was ordained bishop; they were also present in 1983 when Fr Foley became Archbishop of Perth.
Mr and Mrs Gasper are active members of the Church, and have attended Good Shepherd Parish for the past 45 years. Mr Gasper was an acolyte for eight years at St Mary’s Cathedral while Marie Gasper has led the morning Rosary for over 25 years.
“We feel very blessed and thank God for our blessings,” Mrs Gasper said.
Sixty years later they celebrated their love with a special gathering of family and friends. The occasion was marked with a letter of congratulations from Pope Benedict XVI in honour of their 60th anniversary.
“Monsignor Thomas, who married us, wrote to the Pope and asked for it,” Mr Gasper said.
Mr and Mrs Gasper share their secret of a successful and happy marriage.
“You have to be tolerant, patient, listen to each other, have love in your heart and, above all, have God in your life; without religion, marriage cannot work.”