The Perfect Couple
By Dolores Caldwell
The Reston Recorder chose John and Verna (nee Halls) Olenick as July’s Senior Spotlight as they celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary.
John was born December 31, 1935 in the C.P.R. section house (across the tracks). He was the youngest child of eleven. The eldest was sixteen. Over the next 10 years, his 5 brothers all joined the army at various times and he was left at home with his five sisters. “I was only 4 when the war broke out so I don’t have the memories or the guilt of my brothers going to war,” explained John. He lost one brother in the war. He also remembers struggling with prejudice of growing up as a young Ukrainian.
Verna was born October 17, 1937 at Longview, Washington (near Mt. St. Helen). When she was three, her parents divorced and as her father had custody of his three daughters, there was a series of housekeepers come and go. When Verna was six, her father decided to move to the Bede/Broomhill area of Manitoba. “It was a trip from hell,” said Verna. “A carload of car-sick daughters who had just lost their beloved grandfather, their house and would no long have visits from their mother.” Life moved on and her father remarried in 1944. Neither John nor Verna have any siblings left.
“In 1954, we met playing ‘post office’, as there was no money to hang out in the cafes, the teenagers would go to the post office to wait for the mail,” said Verna. “Girls would line up along one wall and boys would line up along the opposite wall. We would then make ‘googly-eyes’ at each other.”
John and Verna dated for five years and were married in Reston United Church in 1959. During the next 30 years, John would work 23 years for C.P.R. – firstly with baggage on the ‘Peanut’ train which ran from Reston to Wolsely. Verna spent 12 years teaching. They lived in Brandon for 9 years and in Estevan for 17.
Having no children, they were able to retire early (1986). In 1988, they felt the ‘call of home’ and decided to move to Reston. They purchased the Burt and Alice Pierce house and remained true and faithful friends to them until their passing. Restlessness set in and they picked up part-time jobs mostly at Reston Collegiate as cleaners as well as various errands for several seniors especially their neighbours on 1st Street. They have participated strongly in the Reston Golf Club for many years as it was outside their back door.
John and Verna’s hope for their future is for it to remain the same as it is right now. “We have travelled parts of every state except Main, touched down in Caracas, Venezuela,” said Verna. “We have been to Holland to see John’s brother Ted’s grave. All of Canada except Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavit. We have no desire to travel any longer.” “Sometimes Brandon is too far,” said John. “Perhaps a trip to the casino once in a while.”
Both John and Verna are well-known in our community as avid volunteers. John goes to the Willow View PCH every single day and has for the past 15 years to help get ready for the noon meal. They told of a heart-warming story how he helped a resident put on her earrings everyday and when she passed away, the day of the funeral, the family presented John with a pair of her earrings as a keepsake.
Verna keeps busy with golfing, happy hour and helps out when someone needs a ride or errand run.
Time moved on and in 2016 they were accepted into Alstone Lodge where they are very happy and contented – also ready to help whenever needed, if possible.
John and Verna celebrated their 60th Anniversary July 11, 2019 with a tea and supper on July 6. “We would like to thank all those who attended our tea, the dinner at the lodge and all who wished us well. Your kindness is greatly valued and appreciated.
John and Verna exchanged a single red rose as a gesture of their love for each other. Congratulations!