Graham Gibson

Date of birth
Circa 1920s
Phyl and Graham Gibson celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last week and were thrilled to have lots of members of their wedding party attend.
“We had a party at Gaddums Hill and our bridemaid, best man, groomsmen and flower girl were all there,” says Graham.

A lot of their oldest and dearest friends and family were also there to celebrate the milestone with them.

The couple met in 1958 when Graham gave Phyl a ride in his truck back to Gisborne from Tokomaru Bay.

“I was showing off and sliding around the corners on the gravel road,” he says.

“And I thought he was a bloody lunatic,” Phyl replies.

He asked her out shortly after and she accepted, after a little persuasion from her parents.

Their first date took place at the Tatapouri Tavern — the place to go in Gisborne at the time.

He worked as a truck driver for Ward Transport and she was a teacher at Tokomaru Bay School.

They had a busy social life and loved going to dances.

“We were before rock ‘n’ roll — we used to do the foxtrot and quick step,” says Graham.

They courted for 18 months, going to dances at the RSA and Cosmopolitan Club and were married on January 10, 1959 at Holy Trinity Church in Gisborne. Their first child Bruce was born later that year.

“We started having a family straight away,” says Phyl.

“Bruce was born nine months and seven days after we were married.”

Julie, Gail and Fiona followed and they are now proud grandparents of 12 children and great-grandparents to nine.

“They are the best grandparents in the world and extremely loving and generous parents,” says youngest daughter Fiona.

Over the years Phyl and Graham have helped their children and grandchildren financially by lending them money, interest free, to help buy first homes or start businesses.

Phyl grew up in Tokomaru Bay where her father worked as an engineer involved in building railway tunnels in Kopuawhara.

She spent two years at teachers’ training college at Ardmore in South Auckland when she was 17 and qualified as a primary school teacher in 1954.

Specialising in remedial reading and speech therapy, she taught at Saint Mary’s School in Childers Road and Riverdale School.

“Once we were married she relieved at schools all over Gisborne,” says Graham.

The Gibsons have lived in their Elgin home for 55 years and Graham worked as a milkman for 29 of those. He retired at 60.

“Gisborne is the best place in the world,” he says.

“We loved camping and used to go to Tatapouri every summer.”

They would take their caravan and stay for four months some years and the children would go off to school from there.

“I would just come in to town and do the milk run and go back out there.

“At one stage we had our camp over one side of the paddock with our friends and our son and daughter would camp with their families at the other end.”

“We were completely set up with a generator and a fridge — it was what they’d call glamping these days,” says Fiona.

Phyl and Graham are very involved with the grandchildren and great grandchildren and love to watch the kids’ sports. They have also helped out a lot with childcare over the years said Fiona.

To mark their 60th anniversary the family planned a party with 32 family members coming from around New Zealand to celebrate this momentous milestone.

“A lot of people were quite surprised to see we were having a party. I guess they thought we were getting too old,” says Phyl.

Graham said it was great to reconnect with old friends.

“It’s brought us all back together.”

When asked what the secret is to a happy marriage he says, “Do as you are told”, laughing.

But the couple had a lot of mutual interests and played golf and bowls together.

They played at the Patutahi Golf Club.

“It was defunct but we got it re-started. I was the groundsman. There are lots of Phyl’s golf trophies in the dining room — and I didn’t get any.”

“Yes you did Dad — you got one from mum for ‘best husband’,” Fiona says.

Graham bought a diamond bracelet for his wife to mark their special anniversary and they received cards from the Queen and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, congratulating them on their 60 years of marriage.

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