In their 80s, Janny Woldhuis and Ray Hoekzema were surprised to find themselves at the centre of an unlikely love story.
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01 June 2023
| Retirement Living, BaptistCare
Friends for 60 years, Janny and Ray became neighbours at BaptistCare’s The Gracewood Community in Kellyville eight years ago.
Becoming friends in the retirement living community just a few years ago, on June 4 this year, Janny and Ray married after a romance that blossomed despite personal hardship and the pandemic.
“I always said I’d never marry again,” said Janny, 81.
“So did I. God put love in our hearts. That’s what I believe,” added Ray, 87.
Both had spent years caring for their spouses in their apartments at The Gracewood Community, and then later within the co-located aged care home, The Gracewood Centre
“My wife and I were friends with Janny and her husband, John. When we came here, my wife was disabled. I looked after her 24/7 for the past 10 years.”
Sadly, Janny and Ray’s partners died after years of ill health, with Ray recalling that difficult time last year.
“When she passed away in September, I personally closed her eyes. And that was a pivotal moment for me because I am a Christian and God gave me enormous peace when that happened. You have now arrived at your eternal home, safe in the arms of Jesus. With that, God gave me peace and let me go.”
As the pandemic hit, Janny, Ray, and two friends at The Gracewood Community became close.
“We were in a bubble. I cooked for them. They cooked for me. We had a happy house together.”
Ray contracted COVID-19 just as Janny was preparing to go on a road trip with her sister.
“She came to the door and said I’m going now. And I said, ‘Have a lovely journey. Take my love with you.”
Janny laughed: “You shouldn’t have said that.”
Ray and Janny talked every day while she was away.
“Just a short conversation and it was obvious what was happening to both of us at the same time,” said Ray, while Janny agreed, “It’s blossomed from there, over the phone.”
Ray then proposed.
“Over the phone, I said we’re going to get married.”
“That’s how it was,” laughed Janny.
They then started calling their nine children about a marriage that would unite two families with a combined 30 grandchildren and 41 great-grandchildren.
“They all needed to know at the same time, so within a couple of hours, we had phoned all nine of them and let them know. I said, ‘Janny and I have fallen in love with each other’”.
On June 4 Janny and Ray married at Woodcroft New Life Christian Church, where they met decades ago.
It was a family affair, with grandchildren playing music on the day and the service performed by Janny’s son, an ordained Presbyterian Minister. Her son-in-law took the wedding photos.
After heading north of Sydney for a honeymoon “to follow the sun”, the newlyweds will move in to Janny’s apartment together at the Gracewood Community.
Ray: “We became good friends, and then we renewed the friendship by being here in the Gracewood. If we hadn’t have come to the Gracewood, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Janny: “We could not be happier.”