Vilma and Vernon Forbes recently celebrated their 70-year anniversary.
“The Forbes are an inspiration,” say staff from Corpus Christi Aged Care Residence, Clayton.
“With their love for, and understanding of, each other, they have the perfect foundation for a wonderful marriage and family.”
Both Vilma and Vernon were born in Sri Lanka. Vilma was orphaned at nine months, and was raised by her grandparents. She was then sent to the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary boarding school when she was nine years old. Here, Vilma says, the sisters taught her everything about life.
She left at age 14 to learn dressmaking, which was what her grandfather wanted for her, even though this was not what she was passionate about.
“I wanted to be a sports person,” said Vilma. “I was highly energetic and did not have a fear in my bones!”
When Vernon was a young man, he wanted to serve his country, so he pretended to be of legal age to enter the Army, which at that time was 18. He recalls with a croak in his voice how his mother ran outside when he returned home.
“She yelled out ‘my son has returned; my son has returned’ with her arms in the air. Many of my mates did not return.”
Vernon worked on the rail lines for many years before retiring in Sri Lanka, where his sister introduced him to Vilma.
He said he saw this beautiful girl and knew she was the one for him. He then bribed his younger sister to introduce him to Vilma, in exchange for a brand new bike, which was the equivalent of owning a luxury car.
Vilma said her grandfather had set up many meetings with local boys, but when she locked eyes with Vernon, she knew that he was the one for her.
That is how their beautiful love story began.
They were married in 1950 and immigrated to Australia with their four children in 1970 for a better life. The family settled in Tullamarine, and Vilma worked in Myer and ran her in-house sausage business, which was a big hit, while Vernon worked in the local post office.
In their 50s, after their kids married and moved out, the couple headed overseas for many adventures, and experienced the world. With backpacks on their backs, they visited England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslavia, France, and many sacred sites.
They both have many fond memories of this time spent together, travelling simply, and without fuss: “It was a slice of bread spread with vegemite, tea and coffee and off we went.”
Back in Australia, Vernon and Vilma often visited Vernon’s sister who lived Corpus Christi, where they thought the staff and atmosphere were lovely.
“This is the home for us one day,” they said at the time, and in May 2017 they made Corpus Christi their home. The couple have a lovely comfortable arrangement over two rooms, one of which has been converted into their own ‘paradise lounge’.
Now, every morning Vilma and Vernon start their day at 5am with morning prayers, then spend the day watching documentaries together, as well as the cricket – they follow the English Cricket team, and chatting with other residents and staff. They then speak with their friends and family, and Vernon enjoys a siesta after lunch.
They’ve embraced and tackled many joys and challenges in their life together, from celebrating the births of their four grandchildren and two great grandchildren, to the devastating loss of their daughter four years ago, to cancer.
Through the length of time they have known each other, there are many things that they love about each other.
Vilma loves Vernon’s understanding, and his ability to not get upset quickly, and his contentment.
When speaking about why he loves Vilma, Vernon quoted a poem by William Wordsworth, “She was a Phantom of Delight”.
“A creature not so bright or good
For human nature’s daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears and smiles.”
Happy anniversary Vilma and Vernon.