Still On Their Canadian Honeymoon

Joseph and Denise

Denise and Joseph, both having been raised in a farming community in Belgium, met at a local Saturday night dance. Saturday night was the one night of the week that people went out. They couldn’t stay out too late because they had to get up Sunday morning to do chores. The dances were held regularly in different agricultural communities around where they were raised and they would meet up on the dance floor. Joseph is a good dancer and literally swept Denise off her feet. For a year they met up at these dances.

When it started to get serious, they would go to each other’s homes. Denise says things changed when Joseph fell off a horse and was in the hospital. Joseph says things changed when he asked Denise if she would be willing to immigrate somewhere with him. Denise said yes.

His younger brother was going to take over the family farm in Belgium and Joseph wanted a farm and knew he would have to immigrate to a different country in order to do that. Denise and Joseph started looking around initially in France and then his Uncle came to visit from Canada. He said, There’s lots of farms available in Canada and it was settled that they would immigrate to Canada.

Joseph knew Denise was the right woman for him when he had her in his arms on the dance floor. For Denise, it was gradual as she talked to Joseph and got to know him, it just felt right. She did not have any doubts. Joseph and Denise have the same religion which was very important for Denise. They both came from church going families.

When it came to the proposal, Joseph said, “It wasn’t like in the movies.” Denise doesn’t have a memory of a specific time–they just talked about their future and decided they would get engaged. First Denise’s father had to be asked and this was done publicly, in front of the whole family at the dinner table. Joseph was quite nervous. Then, in keeping with the custom, he gave the ring to Denise right then. Denise gave a ring to Joseph at the same time–that was the tradition in Belgium at the time.

Denise and Joseph have four children including two daughters and the sons-in-law asked for Joseph’s permission before proposing. Joseph says, “It was easier for them as they didn’t have to do it in a family setting.”

For immigration purposes, it would be easier if Joseph and Denise were married. In Belgium, there are two weddings–a civil wedding and the church wedding–this has been the law since the early 1800’s. They got married in a city hall ceremony on May 8, 1970 in order to apply for immigration to Canada. After their civil wedding, they went back and lived with their parents until they were married by the church on July 2–that is the anniversary they celebrate. Joseph called and asked to speak to Mrs. Sanders and even though Denise was on the phone she didn’t know who he was talking about. It took her a moment to realize she was Mrs. Sanders.

Four days after their official church wedding, they moved to Canada.

They had a beautiful wedding and everyone was happy and then came the tears.


Denise and Joseph had never flown on a plane or left the country before. They didn’t know when they would see their family again and it was an emotional departure for Canada. Joseph said, “There was more crying at the airport than at a funeral. ” That was their honeymoon and Denise jokes, “We are still on our honeymoon.”

Joseph and Denise were met by Joseph’s uncle when they arrived in Canada and they bought a farm in Pilot Mound, Manitoba. Times were tough for farmers then–grain prices were the lowest they had been in a long time. In the beginning it was quite hard–they didn’t speak much English and had to ask people to speak slower but their language improved through watching television and when their kids went to school. They had four children and continued farming for 40 years.

They had been married 45 years at the time of the interview. Now that they are retired, Joseph and Denise spend even more time together. There are ups and downs when you spend all your time together. When they are starting to get under one another’s skin, Denise says they are either hungry, tired or they have cabin fever. Cabin fever can last for a few hours or less. They recognize why they are bothering each other and they know how to address it–some time alone, some food or a nap.

Joseph and Denise forgive every night and say their prayers together as that is their foundation. Denise says, “Their prayers hold the solution to a happy life for them. To love and to be together are the basics of life.” Joseph commented that, “The guy above has our cards in his hands and he’ll pull you a different one once in awhile to straighten you up or to bring you closer together. ”

Joseph and Denise don’t believe in worrying (even though sometimes they can’t help it) because it doesn’t add time to your life on earth–that is in the hands of their God. Joseph says, “You have to earn your Heaven and if it isn’t your time, you have to work a little harder.”

Broadcast Love wishes Denise and Joseph many more years of love and happiness together.

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