WA Couple celebrate six decades of marriage

Don and Michelle Watts

Taking the good with the bad and a commitment to staying in love is the secret to a successful marriage, according to Claremont couple Don and Michelle Watts, who celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last week, surrounded by family and friends.

Mercy Place Mont Clare resident Don, 86, and his 84-year-old wife first met when they were only 12 and 10-years-old respectively when their families regularly holidayed at a guesthouse in Toodyay in the 1940s.

After that, they would often bump into each other as they played in various tennis tournaments around Perth.

But it wasn’t until they both found themselves in London in the late 1950s that they became a couple.

“We met at a party to farewell friends who were leaving London, and it was then that we connected and got together as a couple,” explains Michelle, who grew up in Mount Lawley and attended Perth College.

“I was due to leave London for Naples soon after, and Don had arranged to drive around the continent with friends. But even though we went in separate directions, we committed to write to each other at various Poste Restantes, and we then became engaged soon after meeting back in London. In fact we were only engaged for three weeks before we were married at St Martin-in-the-Fields, in July 1960.”

The couple lived in London for the next 18 months, where Don had gained a scholarship to undertake his post-doctorate in chemistry. Then in early 1962, they returned to Perth, where Don took up a position as a lecturer at the University of WA, soon becoming an Associate Professor, before being appointed as the Director of the WA Institute of Technology in 1980, now Curtin University.

“We lived in Floreat Park when we first returned back to Perth, before moving to Dalkeith and then buying a house in Shenton Park,” says Michelle, who became a mum to the couple’s two sons – Andrew and Tim – in the early 1960s.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to live in many different places around Australia, and indeed the world. We moved to the Gold Coast where Don was a key figure in setting up Bond University, Australia’s first private not-for-profit university, before moving to Darwin for several years.  And we were also lucky enough to live in Los Angeles and Toronto during work sabbaticals.”

And so given their successful marriage spanning six decades, do Michelle and Don, an Old Haleian, have any tips for younger people who are about to tie the knot?

“I think it’s about being tolerant, working together and making sure you’re consistent and on the same page when it comes to raising children.”

Michelle Watts

Mercy Place Mont Clare Acting Service Manager, Mark Flores, said the entire Mercy Place Mont Clare team was keen to congratulate the couple on their special milestone anniversary.

“Everyone at Mercy Health was keen to wish Michelle and Don all the very best on their momentous anniversary,” Mr Flores said.

“It is a tribute to both of them to have built such a solid foundation for a long-lasting and happy life together. 

“Reaching such a milestone anniversary is a wonderful achievement and it is genuinely very special to see them still totally committed to each other.”