Kim Willoughby has shed many tears in the past, but her wedding day was a rare occasion during which she did not cry. Finally at peace, the vivacious When The Cat’s Away singer is living proof that love really does conquer all.
Just nine months after rekindling a romance with her former high school boyfriend Martyn Heselden (50), the couple tied the knot – a significant milestone in a relationship they began almost four decades ago.
“Marty was my first real boyfriend, but until last August we hadn’t seen each other for 35 years,” explains Kim (50). “Marty found out my mum Suzanne has terminal cancer and emailed me to say how sorry he was. He was coming home to New Zealand and asked if I‘d like to catch up.”
Kim invited builder Martyn, who lives in Thailand for six months of the year, to her Napier home, where they reminisced about their two-year romance as 13-year-olds at Birkdale College (now Birkenhead College).
“When I was 15, he threw me over for a dancer,” laughs Kim. “He wanted someone else! I cried for the rest of the day and then got on with my life.
“But I had wondered what kind of man he grew up to be. I was delighted to find him straight, honest, simple and caring. Our relationship now is just like it was back then. When we were kids, we had fun together, wagged school and went surfing.”
After falling back in love, Kim moved to Thailand, living in Martyn’s island home for four months.
For self-confessed, never-been-married, “commitment phobic” Martyn, seeing Kim again was life-changing.
He recalls how, after a month of being together, he told his sweetheart that for the first time he was clear and sure of what he wanted, “and that was to marry Kim”.
“I’d always thought of Kimmy and wondered what had happened to her,” he continues. “She was the best I ever had, and I thought, ‘If I had my choice, she would be The One.’ Then it happened! It’s the most remarkable thing.”
The couple arranged their wedding in just five weeks, Kim remaining perfectly calm, until a slight hiccup occurred.
“I was an hour late for our wedding!” laughs Kim. “I had a wardrobe malfunction – you could see my undergarment and I didn’t want to go commando! I had to get my sister to pick me up some new underwear.”
The pre-wedding drama didn’t stop there. Glue from her false lashes seeped into her eye and it welled up while she was having her make-up applied.
“Every time I opened my eyes, tears ran down my face!”
As it turned out, Kim’s delayed entrance, which she marked with a cheeky thumbs up sign directed at her husband-to-be, was one of only a few wedding traditions the couple adhered to on the day.
“Wearing a suit and tie is not me at all,” says Martyn, who Kim praised for his “gypsy soul” during their personalised vows.
“If he had his way, he probably would’ve married in bare feet,” adds Kim. “I wanted him to be comfortable and feel like himself. I like a bit of a frock up though!”
Kim was given away by her eldest child, James (22), her son to Temuera Morrison, and the Hollywood actor’s youngest daughter Aiorangi (9) was flower girl. They stepped on to the Takapuna Boating Club balcony for a ceremony led by acting legend Simon Prast, just as the last bright autumn afternoon light fell on the water below. The Mary Black song Golden Mile played in the background.
“Marty and I locked eyes – and it was so lovely to see the smile on his face! I felt beautiful.”
Martyn – wearing a silk shirt tailored in Bangkok, handmade shoes and linen pants – stood proudly as Kim, in a stunning lace creation by friend Rohmana, told him: “You’re not materialistic and always look for the positives. I appreciate your good strong hands, your upper-body muscle definition and magnificent humour! I love you Marty, and I’m so happy we have been given this wonderful and unexpected blessing to spend the rest of our lives together – I’m a very lucky girl and I promise to be the best wife you’ve ever had!”
For his part, Martyn promised to never lose Kim again. “Time has allowed me to find you once more – I shall not let you go again. I give you my words to reassure you and let you know you’re loved. I give you my head so that when you need support, I will see it. I give you my heart so you can feel it when you are scared. I give you my soul that will keep you safe and secure.”
It would be fair to say that Martyn has put the smile back on Kim’s face – a smile that disappeared after the suicide of her late husband Ian Morris in 2010, father to her twin daughters Maude and Julia (20).
“When Ian died, it was devastating and hit the children hard. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder – my hair fell out in clumps. I was completely wrecked. Ian’s death was a double-whammy because I lost my own father the same way,” says Kim, adding, “Marty helps me live in the now and not worry about what is going to happen. Now is all we have! I feel younger, freer and happier.”
Following their week-long honeymoon around Northland, the lovebirds will return to Thailand and divide their time between Asia and New Zealand. Kim has even started to sing again.
“I haven’t worked for the past three years as I didn’t feel right inside. My heart wasn’t in it but I feel good to go again! Whether I do a Madonna and reinvent myself, I don’t know!”
About Linda Shackelford
Linda has worked as a journalist for New Zealand’s best-selling weekly women’s national mass market magazines, leading national and regional newspapers. She has also worked in public relations, digital communications, web content writing and marketing, social media and event management roles for a range of companies, entrepreneurs and publications, including technology start-ups. Linda has always been keen to embrace new challenges, learn as much as she can and expand her networks and contacts both in New Zealand and internationally.more of this author