Sometimes, it helps to stand out.
Cecil Rees was the one and only male in a secretary school, where he enrolled after his father had urged him. Rees was born with polio in his left foot, a condition that his father believed would limit his job opportunities. Rees followed this advice and eventually landed a secretary job in the fall of 1943 with the Canadian National Railway in Prince Albert, where he met Pat, who like Cecil, was an expert typist. Over time, they discovered that that they shared many other things as well, and two years later, they were married.
Seventy-three years later, 100-year-old Rees and 99-year-old Pat continue to call each other man and wife, and like so many couples, who have known each other for a long time, both of them know all of the key dates.
In fact, their marriage date — Oct. 15, 1945 — was also the source of their first argument.
Cecil says he wanted to get married on Pat’s birthday — Oct. 19, 1919. She wanted to get married on his birthday, Oct. 11, 1918. So they split the difference, and they have been happy ever since.
They now live in Saanich’s Berwick House, where they can look back upon a rich life has taken them from Prince Alberta to just about every corner of western Canada: Saskatoon, Edmonton, Prince Rupert, North Vancouver, and finally, the Victoria area.
Their daughter has given them three grand-children, and five great-grand-children, while their son and his wife have adopted two girls. Over the years, they have developed long and lasting friendships with countless people, and their respective children through their work and their involvement with service groups like the Masonic Lodge and the Shriners.
Long gone are days when they played music together, but they still speak with a quiet pride about their weekly radio show on a Prince Albert radio station. With Pat on the piano, and Cecil as vocalist, the duo entertained trappers and others working in the bush of northern Saskatchewan for seven years.
“We have had a good life,” says Pat, in a matter of fact tone.
What a life it has been. When both were born, Robert Borden was prime minister. The proverbial horse and buggy was a familiar sight on the streets of Canada, whose society nonetheless found itself in a transitional phase, morphing from its rural roots into an urban, consumerist society.
The fact Pat and Cecil have and continue to live this process — an Internet-connected computer now stands on Cecil’s desk — entitles them to some expertise on the big questions in life, including the question of what makes a successful marriage. Their answers are simple, but highly plausible.
“The main thing is we always did things together,” says Cecil. When he was attending the local Masonic Lodge, Pat would be involved with its female division. When he joined the Shriners, she would be participate in its female division. And so on. “We were very busy that way,” says Pat.
Ultimately though, they took time to know each other. “Life goes a lot faster now,” says Pat. “Life is a lot more complicated, a lot more diversions. Man and wife go different ways, because they like different things.”
Of course, they were disappointments along the way. Pat had to give up her business teaching secretaries when the couple left Prince Albert, and Prince Rupert did not exactly have the most active social life. But this reality also gave them a chance to grow close with each other and their children, adapting and growing along the way.
“If you don’t change, your in trouble,” she says. By the sound of it, they have passed on those lessons to their children, and grandchildren.
“My granddaughter will be married in July, and they have kept it step-by-step,” says Pat. “They are just a beautiful couple. They have done everything right, and they are going to very happy, because of the way they have gone about it. They have known each for a long time, and they are quite compatible too. I think that this best way.”
Others might say exactly the same thing about Pat and Cecil.