Ken and Betty Chapman have literally battled rough waters together in their 70 years of marriage.
Ken once swam a mile in the choppy waters of Laclu, Ontario, when no one else dared to. It was during an annual regatta at the lake.
The swimming event had been postponed due to stormy weather. That didn’t stop Ken – who was in his 70s at the time – from jumping in the water and Betty from tailing him in her rowboat.
Seated on the couch in their Newton townhouse, Ken gently lifts a scrapbook of memories from Betty’s hands.
Born three days apart, Ken and Betty – both 94 years old – remain young at heart.
“He’s lucky to have me, and I’m lucky to have him,” says Betty.
A collection of meticulously cropped black-and-white photos line each page of the scrapbook. A snapshot of Betty, all dolled up in a ruffled dress, catches Ken’s eye.
“She’s pretty good-looking,” Ken says smiling, his blue eyes twinkling.
Ken and Betty met in Winnipeg during the Great Depression. They lived two blocks away from each other, near the centre of the city.
“So I didn’t have to go far to find her,” says Ken.
The young couple’s dates consisted of a walk up to Main Street. Occasionally they attended picture shows .
“It was 25 cents to get in, and you came home with a piece of dinnerware. We got quite a few pieces,” recalls Ken.
Together, the couple took in the first talking movie – The Jazz Singer, in 1927.
There was no marriage proposal. A wedding was simply a matter-of-fact progression after seven years of dating.
When Ken and Betty were 24 years old, they wed in a no-frills, church ceremony on Aug. 18, 1941.
Betty didn’t wear a traditional wedding dress.
“In the war, you didn’t do things like that. Everyone concentrated on war efforts,” explains Ken, who enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
A modest cabin on Laclu, a few hours east of Winnipeg, was the honeymoon spot.
“When it was time to go back to Winnipeg, the mice had eaten all of my underwear,” Betty remembers.
In later years, every summer the couple returned to Laclu with their four children: Ken, Bruce, Lisa and Beverley.
“Dad swam a mile every day, with mom behind him in the rowboat,” says Beverley. “They do everything together.”
The Chapmans moved to Victoria in 1975, where they lived until eight years ago. These days, a well-manicured gated community in Newton, with waterfalls and koi ponds, offers serenity for the pair.
Ken keeps up his swimming regiment in the lap pool; Betty enjoys a game of cards with her friends in the clubhouse.
Repairing cuckoo clocks has also become a hobby for Ken, a retired director of engineering with Air Canada.
The Chapman children – some of whom live in Alberta and Ontario – are en route to Surrey this week to mark their parents’ big day.
On Thursday the group plans to go out for dinner on a river cruise to celebrate Ken and Betty’s 70th wedding anniversary.
“There’s nothing to it. All you have to do is stay alive,” says Ken of the milestone.
Oh, “and you both have to like each other.”
View video of The Champmans here: http://bit.ly/qZVAGm