It was an outdoor Hindu marriage under a canopy made of bamboo sticks supporting a corrugated tin roof and walls of coconut leaves.
On the night Aug. 31, 1946, about 150 people from the village of Tamavua in the southeast corner of the main island of Fiji gathered for the wedding of James and Sheila Dass.
James was 24 worked and worked as a carpenter for Sheila’s uncle. She was 15, the oldest of six sisters, and dedicated to “domestic duties.”
It was an arranged marriage – normal for the time, says daughter Marion Abid, one of their six children.
“I was working and didn’t know anything about it,” says James.
That night, Sheila was nervous, and a bit sad knowing she’d miss her family as she moved in with his.
Seventy years later, with their anniversary coming up, Sheila has no complaints.
“I feel it – it’s a big day. I’m so happy with my children and great-grandchildren” – they have 24 of them, from 17 grandchildren.
Photo: The couple on their wedding day.
Today, the long-retired couple lives in a seniors’ complex near Bear Creek Park.
Both use walkers, and for ages 94 and 85 respectively, James and Sheila are in pretty good health.
He plays pool and cards with his friends in the neighbourhood, and even drove his van until last year.
“I miss my driving, but now all of my children take me out,” he says.
“Their love for each other is very strong, and whenever they are separated, they miss each other,” says daughter Venus Cardwell.
Their kids, now mostly in their 60s, remember growing up with a hardworking father, a stay-at-home mom, and lots of swimming and fishing in Fiji.
The family moved to Canada in 1974 and they’ve long-since considered it their home.
Before their wedding, neighbourhood invitations were door-to-door. Instead of cards, they gave out handfuls of rice or flour.
They’ve sent out invitations to families and friends for the 70th anniversary celebration on the afternoon Aug. 27 in Fleetwood.
On the top of the card are the words “Love is Eternal.”
Anyone interested in attending can contact Venus Cardwell at 604-588-2487 or firstname.lastname@example.org