Friends reunited to marry after half a century

Published: August 31, 2007 | 6675th good news item since 2003

Michael and Marian met in an Ulster school in 1956. Now, after living separate lives for 50 years, they’ve found each other again

Over half a century ago, Michael Spathaky and Marian Mitchell, as she was called then, were teenaged sweethearts at Portadown College.

Now the couple, in their early 60s, are planning a romantic wedding in Australia, on board a river cruiser on the River Napier in Penrith, near Sydney.

It isn’t a case of a long engagement, but of two people who, widowed and lonely, made contact through the Friends Reunited website, and found happiness for a second time.

Five children and nine grandchildren later, the couple have announced their upcoming nuptials.

Their notice says: “The wedding will take place in Sydney on July 28, followed by a blessing in Oadby, Leicestershire, UK, on October 6.”

And between 1956 (they were in Form 3A) and 2007, there lies two lifetimes of love and heartache, with both losing their spouses to brain tumours.

Michael and Marian (now Marian Chambers) were in the same forms at the college from 1953 to 1956 and were boyfriend and girlfriend during that final year.

Michael’s dad was Ron Spathaky – an Englishman and French teacher at the college – and the family decided to return to England.

“We corresponded for a while, but then lost touch and went our separate ways,” said Michael.

Marian left Portadown College in 1959 to pursue a career in the Civil Service and married local man Sammie Chambers in 1962. They went on to have three children. The couple moved to England and, in 1981, emigrated to Sydney, where Sammie died in 1998.

Meanwhile, Michael went to Norwich University where he graduated in physics, spent most of his working life as a teacher and plumped for early retirement in 1997.

He married Diana Jones in 1964. They lived in Oadby, Leicestershire, where they brought up their two children.

In 2001, while Marian was visiting the UK, she spotted Michael’s name on the Portadown College list of Friends Reunited. She made contact, and visited Michael and Diana – who were now running an IT business from home.

A year later, Diana died – also of a brain tumour – after which Michael sold the business and retired.

He spent some time in Sydney, looked up Marian, the days at Portadown College were rekindled and they decided to marry.

“In order to keep in touch with both families, we plan to spend half our lives in Australia and half in the UK,” Marian said.

“We’re looking forward to our life together and we have many relations in both countries.”

Former students of Portadown College will be delighted to know that Michael’s father, Ron Spathaky, now 92, is still very much alive and residing in England with his wife, Kath. They will soon be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary.

“It’s been quite a journey,” said Michael. “Who’d have thought that young sweethearts in Portadown College would end up getting married more than half a century later?”

Published in Love
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