Alec and Joan Gagino have the kind of love story that makes movies, and 70 years after they first said ‘I do’ they are still making each other laugh.
Village Manager, Lynda Williams pulled out all the stops to put on a gala afternoon tea for the couple, who are an integral part of the village community.
“I have often gone to see them for something really quick and ended up staying for hours having a chat and a good old laugh,” Lynda says.
‘They are a beautiful and inspiring couple who can still make each other laugh after all these years of marriage. They come to all the social events we hold in the village and really enjoyed getting involved in the activities.
“But the most impressive thing about Alec and Joan is their truly amazing love story that started during the second World War.”
Two weeks after the bombing of Darwin, Alec Gagino, then 17, quit his job so he could enlist with the Royal Australian Navy.
The Navy asked him to wait until he was older, so on his father’s advice he took a job with a textile company, eagerly awaiting the day he could enlist. Little did he know the minor frustration would deliver him a lifetime partner – it was while working at the textile company that he met Joan, then just starting out as a designer.
Not long after, Alec was called up for service and spent the next 3 1/2 years serving with the Royal Australian Navy in the South Pacific as an Engineer’s Writer.
He admits despite his choice of career, he had never learned to swim.
“For our training we had to wear a mask, really heavy boots and climb into a swimming pool and walk along the bottom, I was terrified. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I couldn’t swim,” he says.
During his time in the Navy Alec served across the South Pacific, but one of his most memorable duties was visiting Japan after the bombing of Hiroshima.
“It was a very eerie and desolate place, but the one thing that stood out to me was the grass was growing amongst the rubble – and they said nothing would ever grow there again,” he recalls.
Meanwhile, he and Joan had kept their romance alive by writing to each other regularly – on one occasion, Alec sent a 73-page letter.
“It arrived at my work on a Saturday morning and it was huge – my boss saw me reading it and I thought I was going to lose my job,” Joan laughs.
Once Alec returned to Australia he and Joan began seeing each other again.
“He proposed to me on Bourke Street in front of a jewellery shop. He pointed at the rings and said which one you want?” she says.
“I said, hang on you haven’t actually asked me yet! And he said ‘Well will you or won’t you?’, and that was my engagement.”
They built their life together from humble beginnings, as many couples did at the time, due to post-war shortages and restrictions.
The couple reminisce about their first home, car and going camping with their baby daughter. They didn’t have much but they were happy.
They started a cleaning business and moved to Brisbane. Alec continued working into his 70s and they moved into our Inverpine community in 1997.
Joan says the secret to a long and happy marriage is communication.
“Alec is starting to lose his hearing but continues to nod in agreement with what I am saying and say “Yes Dear”. Blind acceptance is very important,” she smiles.