The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

Married 49 Years

Kees and Marie

Marie had planned a trip to Europe with her girlfriend.  They were both Greek and they initially went to her girlfriend’s families’ home in Greece.  They travelled to Holland and she stayed at family friends where she met Kees.  He was in a band with one of the brothers from the family where she was staying.  Marie had met a fellow at a dance and he wanted to take her out on a date and the family was very protective and said, “No, no, we’ll have a party and you can socialize there.”

Kees walked in, saw Marie in her red velvet coat with fur trim and her jet black hair and he knew she was the one. 

Marie was sitting beside this guy she had met at the dance and Kees sat down on the other side of him.  Kees and Marie just leaned in and spoke around him. He was no competition. 

They didn’t know how each other felt. Marie left Holland with her girlfriend and carried on with her trip around Europe.  They got to Italy and decided to split up for a couple of weeks and then reconnect in Greece and fly home together.  Her girlfriend went back to Greece to be with her family and Marie went back to Holland for a couple of weeks. 

Marie was in a car with some of the brothers from the family where she was staying and they asked her if she wanted to come to the band rehearsal and she said, “ Sure, I’ll come.”  They picked up Kees and he opened the door, carrying a bag of chips, looked at Marie and went, “It’s you,” with a big smile on his face.  Kees thought he had lost her.  The night before Marie was leaving to go back to Greece and fly home, they were spending time together and Kees was flipping through a magazine and reading his star sign.  He interpreted his horoscope to mean, “If you don’t say something now, it will never happen.”  He put down the magazine and said “I kind of really like you” and Marie said the same thing.  They went for a walk and had their first kiss.  Before she left, Kees said, “I’m coming to Australia for you.”  The next day Marie took a train and headed back to Australia.

Marie is of Greek origin and her mother wanted more than anything for her to marry a man with the same religion and ethnic background.  She had even tried to arrange some suitors who Marie didn’t like at all.  They okayed her trip because she was going with a Greek girl to a Greek family in Greece.  They had envisioned a big fat Greek wedding. When she returned her dad asked if she had met anyone—thinking she might have found a nice Greek boy.  You can imagine how it was received when Marie said, “Oh yes, I met someone and he’s not Greek.”  Her father said, “Don’t tell your Mom—I’ll tell her.”

Kees knew immediately.  Kees had had a fair bit of experience with girls which is why he was so confident that Marie was who he needed.

I was put on this planet to meet this lady.


Marie liked Kees right from the beginning.  She was quite naïve and had very little experience with men.  She didn’t think of herself as attractive so she was a bit concerned to throw herself into something and possibly get hurt.  After about a month of Kees being in Australia, Marie knew he was the one. Kees gave up so much for her.  What sealed it was when she went to him and said she didn’t think she could leave Australia and that’s when she knew for sure that he was totally committed to her.  The prospect of not being together was not something he was willing to entertain. 

They hadn’t been out together or had time alone together.  It just seemed to click—they had so many similarities even physical ones like tiny hands, Marie jokes.  It took nine months to get everything in order from the authorities so that Kees could go to Australia. Marie left in January, 1972 and in December of that year Kees arrived. 

In the meantime, they were writing each other.  Sometimes one or two times a day, sometimes even three.  Kees numbered them so you could read them in numerical order.  They have kept all these letters and they are numbered and dated—there are stacks of them. Kees proposed to Marie in one of these letters.  He wrote a poem and the last line was, Will you be my wife?  I’m coming to Australia and my intentions are to marry you.  He had to wait a week to get her response!

Marie thought it was all very romantic from the first letter she received and he made little cassette tapes and even sent flowers.  My mother would get upset every time another letter would come so their next door neighbour, who was about 70 at the time would race to their mail box before her mother got home and kept all Marie’s letters to the side for her so her mother couldn’t destroy anything. 

In order to be allowed into Australia, Kees had to have someone who would vouch for him and have a job arranged.  Marie’s father had arranged all of this for Kees and they became very close and had a fantastic relationship.  If it wasn’t for Marie’s father she would never have been allowed to marry Kees.  For years Marie’s mother didn’t want anything to do with Kees.  It wasn’t until she got dementia that she forgot about her feelings toward him and now she thinks he’s the best person ever.   

Kees arrived in December and they were married in June.  Kees was young and naïve and he didn’t realize that he should have had his own place.  Instead he lived with Marie’s family and as such was around her mother and open to her criticism on a regular basis.  He was taking her criticism very seriously and he was losing weight and very upset. He told Marie that he was going back to Holland because he wasn’t really happy.  Marie said “You go back to Holland and I’ll stay and sort things out over here and join you. “  Later that evening, he went to bed and a little while later Marie knocked on his bedroom door and said, “I wasn’t honest with you, if you went back to Holland I wouldn’t be able to come.”  Kees said “Okay then I won’t go back.” 

Shortly after that they put things into motion and asked Marie’s mom if they could get engaged in April and married in June.  Kees still had to get the approval of her family.  There was no issue with her father. He could see they were going to be happy and that they loved each other but her mother had to be convinced.  She was still keen on the Greek man but an arranged marriage would have been no good for anyone.  They married for the right reasons.  Marie’s father had two younger sisters and one had the opportunity to marry a friend and the father wouldn’t let the marriage go ahead because he wasn’t Greek.  She ended up marrying this Greek man that ended up physically abusing her and she was so unhappy.  Her dad did not want this to happen to Marie.  He said, “I’m not forcing you into anything–it should be your choice. Whatever decision you make, you will live with.”  Her mom had grown up with strict rules about how you were to live your life while her father was open to different ways of doing things. 

They were both very young when they met–Kees was 19 and Marie 21 and they got married when they were 23 and 20.  They worked very hard and did Marie’s Europe trip all over again together traveling for 3 or 4 months on their honeymoon where they really got to know each other. There was no expectation on either side to change religion.  They did Greek Easter and Christmas and the kids were baptized in the Greek Orthodox church.  Kees was fine with that, it was never going to be anything that came between them. To him it was important that the kids had some sort of religious base to work off. As it turned out the children got married in different churches. 

The engagement party was more for her mother’s sake than theirs.  It allowed her to do things in the Greek tradition.  Then it took a couple of months to organize the wedding and they were married in June.  Kees said he would have done everything the same except he would have had his own place to live once he arrived in Australia so as not be under the scrutiny of Marie’s mom 24/7.  He chocks that up to immaturity because he was only 19. 

In addition to being each other’s best friends, Kees says having mutual goals has always helped them work together.  They always set themselves goals—whether it be a trip or something they wanted to buy.  They always had similar ideas of what the goal should be and as a result it was something they could both get behind and they looked forward to achieving it. 

Marie said their focus was always on the family and children.  Whatever work they did, and they worked hard, it was all to bring themselves to a point that they could pay for the education of their children. Although it was difficult to travel because they were self-employed, they made a point of travelling overseas every four years so their children could meet their Dutch family.   

To think I went all the way to Holland to meet my life partner who I think I was meant to be with and it turned out wonderful!


Broadcast Love wishes Kees and Marie many more decades of laughter and friendship together.

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