Pair thrown together in storm
THERE'S a cheeky glint in Joan Smith's eye as she playfully messes up her husband George's hair while they pose for their photo.
George just shakes his head, shooting his wife a cheeky smile back.
Reading the above, they may sound like playful newlyweds but George and Joan - aged 89 and 85 respectively - have been married for more than half a century - and it's not hard to see why.
Tomorrow the Junction Hill couple will mark their 65th wedding anniversary with a quiet dinner for two at the Grafton District Services Club.
Less quiet was the event in 1944 that brought them together in the Victorian town of Mildura.
"We actually met in the middle of a dust storm - one of the biggest ones ever seen in the area," Joan recalled.
George, a Tasmanian who had enlisted in the Australian Air Force, was in Mildura to get an eye test before he could be deployed to the Pacific during the Second World War.
It was there his path first crossed with Joan.
"The eye specialist gave me the all-clear so I left, but I had to wait for a couple of hours in town to get the bus back to the base and then this big dust storm came up," George said.
"I walked down the street to find some shelter and these people in a shop called me in out of it, which was lucky because it ended up being one of the biggest dust storms ever recorded there."
The people in the shop happened to be Joan and a friend of hers - both nurses from the Mildura Base Hospital who had been out and about when the storm hit and also sought shelter in the shop.
The pair struck up a conversation while sheltering from the storm and became fast friends.
After the dust settled (literally) the pair happened to meet again at a local dance, and after that they were just about inseparable until George was sent to serve in the Pacific a few months later.
"After that we wrote letters to each other for two years and then I was given the option to come home or to continue service in Japan," George said.
He chose the former. He came back, married Joan and the couple settled in Tasmania for almost 30 years, with George earning a living as a dairy farmer.
After leaving Tasmania, the couple lived at Lightning Ridge for a number of years, before again upping stakes and heading to Grafton about 10 years ago to be closer to two of their four children.
They have been familiar faces in the Junction Hill community since.
When asked what the secret to 65 years of happy marriage was, George and Joan didn't have to think.
They said they were simply best friends who also happened to love each other.
They had a similarly decisive answer when asked if they had any regrets: "No! We still love each other," Joan said.
"There's not a day go past that George doesn't tell me he loves me.
"We've had a wonderful life.
"Neither of us would change what we have for anything - not for all the millions in the world."