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Les and Lenva Cullerne tied the knot in 1952 and have 70 years worth of fond memories together. Photo: GORDON PREECE

Paeroa couple celebrate 70 years

Les and Lenva Cullerne “hit it off straight away” when they met at a Saturday night dance at Te Aroha in 1950.
Les, now 91, told The Profile he was a 19 year-old motor mechanic apprentice when he first met 17 year-old shop assistant Lenva Mallowes 72 years ago, and thought she was “the prettiest one in the room”.
“[She was] nice and petite, really good figure, good humour, and I asked her for the last dance and she said yes. I ended up taking her home and it just grew from there.”
The couple, who now live in Paeroa, got engaged at the Te Aroha tennis courts 12 months after meeting and tied the knot on October 25, 1952.
This month they celebrated their platinum anniversary with family and members of their original bridal party.
Les fondly recalled sporting a traditional black suit and seeing his bride dressed in pink as she walked down the aisle.
“I thought she was a beautiful person, and I felt quite lucky too,” he said.
“The weather was perfect and everyone there was joking, happy, and in good spirits and we had quite a nice afternoon with celebrations.”
Les said he and Lenva, now 89, had a memorable honeymoon when a horse collided with their vehicle in Palmerston North. “My dad lent us his Hillman because the car I had wasn’t suitable for travelling long distances,” he said.
“We went to Tauranga first and we had an accident in Palmerston North – a horse jumped on our car, so we had the car fixed up and undercoated.”
Lenva was a homemaker and Les was an automotive engineer, and highlights during their 70-year union include attending movie nights together, being involved with country music and Grey Power, spending summer holidays at Whangamatā, and raising their three children: Peter, Christine, and Helen.
Les, who also served with St John for 51 years, said the secret to seven decades of marriage was “tolerance”.
“We’ve been pretty lucky really because I’ve seen so many couples who were married at the same time as us who had separated and married again, so it’s an advantage to stay together,” he said.
“When things go wrong some of us have pretty short fuses, but I’m one of them who keeps calm. We might’ve had a few arguments in our earlier days but that’s when you start learning about each other.”
Lenva said she and Les spend their days doing crosswords and puzzles and watching David Lomas Investigates, Shortland Street, and game shows.
“The aim is to try and answer the questions before they do, to see if you’ve still got a brain,” she laughed.
Les said he also spent time gardening and being an active member of Paeroa MenzShed.
The couple received congratulatory messages for their 70th wedding anniversary from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro, and were awaiting a message from King Charles III.