Christchurch great-grandmother Bernadine Bluett is living proof to the hardest of hearts that you should never give up on love. Moving half-way around the world at the age of 87 to marry her first true love, Bernadine’s second marriage has been more than 70 years in the making.
An inspiration to any single woman, Bernadine has long held a torch for Robert, a British soldier she exchanged love letters with during World War II.
When the letters suddenly stopped coming, she found love elsewhere, marrying Kiwi bomber pilot Roy Bluett in 1948 and moving to Christchurch to start a new life.
She never forgot Robert, who was also her cousin. He had visited Bernadine’s family in Devon while on leave and they had fallen in love in 1940.
“There was something between us,” she says. “We went for a walk and I thought ‘this is the man I’m going to spend the rest of my life with’, but we didn’t even kiss. “He was a romantic. His letters were just incredible.”
But, unbeknownst to Bernadine, her parents were against the union and eventually stopped forwarding Robert’s letters to their daughter, who was working as a triage nurse for the Royal Air Force in Birmingham.
“He’d made arrangements for us to get married and I didn’t know about it,” she says. “I was furious that they could have interfered like that.”
Bernadine settled into life with her Kiwi husband and they had three children together, and she now has five great-grandchildren. Robert also went on to marry and had two children himself.
“My husband wasn’t romantic but he was gentle and kind and a lovely Kiwi man.” Roy passed away in 2002.
Four years ago, Robert got Bernadine’s address from a nephew who was researching the family tree. Two hundred love letters later – all written by hand with a fountain pen – and Bernadine was ready to marry again and return to England to start a new life.
Her children, who are thrilled their mother is remarrying, are helping with her move to Somerset, where she is hoping for a few years of happiness with Robert, who is 89.
“Bob said, ‘Will you marry me?’ And I thought, ‘Why not?’ We’ll be together. I just want to be with him. “When I look at him I don’t see an old man.”
Her advice to other women is to keep themselves fit and mentally alert so they are able to grab whatever opportunities come their way.