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Sixty-seven years and counting

BONNYVILLE - Making love last isn’t easy, but for couples like Garth and Joyce Biddle, it just comes naturally. 

“We just always got along,” laughed Joyce in their new home at the Bonnylodge. 

Surrounded by photos of their family, the results of over 67 years of marriage, she and her husband Garth described a love story that’s uniquely theirs. 

“I played hooky from school to go on a blind date with him,” Joyce recalled. “It got me in trouble at home.”

Nineteen-year-old Garth and Joyce, who was 18 at the time, did what any young couple does on a first date. 

They met up with another pair, went for a drive, and sat down at the river. 

Garth proposed in his own way, by saying, “I love ya kid, let’s get married,” and on Sept. 22, 1952, they did. 

“It was a lovely day,” detailed Garth. 

They were married in the rectory in their hometown of North Battleford, SK, with a reception at Joyce’s parent’s. 

When asked if there were any memories that stood out, Joyce described how her brother backed into Garth’s mother’s car. 

“Everything went smoothly anyway, besides that.”

They spent their honeymoon in Saskatoon, SK, after driving Garth’s grandmother home from their wedding. 

Once they got back from their trip, the couple moved-in with Garth’s parents at their family farm, where they stayed for two or three years. 

“Our daughter Janet was born in 1954 and we were still there then,” Joyce said. 

They went on to have two more children, Bryan and Vincent. 

“Janet was born Jan. 17, Bryan on (Jan. 18, 1955), and Vince on (Jan. 19, 1957), all in January,” noted Joyce, adding her husband’s also born in January, on the 29th. 

“It was always one big birthday party, that was it,” she recalled. 

The couple moved quite often throughout their marriage, going where the work would take them. 

“I had all kinds of experiences,” Garth said. 

This includes a near-death encounter in 1956. While working for a company building the Trans Mountain Pipeline near Chilliwack, BC, he was “darn-near buried alive,” described Joyce, during a cave-in. 

Luckily, the quick thinking of a fellow employee saved Garth’s life. 

“A guy jumped in front of him and put his legs by his head, that saved him from being completely buried. But, one leg got twisted behind the other one and he ended up in the hospital for a while. He came home in a cast up to his hip,” Joyce detailed. 

They lived in Edmonton while Garth worked as a hauler, had a brief stint at Garth’s family farm, and eventually made their way to the Bonnyville-area in 1970.

The Biddles rented a farm north of Fort Kent before purchasing a half-section of land.

In 1980, it all “went downhill.”

The couple sold everything, Garth began trucking, Joyce took a job at a local motel in order to make a living, and the family moved onto an acreage in Iron River. 

Regardless of where he was in North America, every year on Valentine’s Day, Garth would send his wife flowers. A tradition that continued for years. 

A memory that stood out in Joyce’s mind was one Christmas where she wasn’t sure if her husband was going to make it home. 

“It was close to Christmas one year and he hadn’t come home. It was terrible. On Christmas Eve it was snowing to beat the band and he came driving in and I was sure glad to see him, but he had to leave three days later anyway and was back on the road again.”

After leaving her job in 1996, Joyce joined her husband on the road with their two dachshunds. 

“I got to read the map pretty well,” she described. “I could find him shortcuts... and I always told him it was the only time I could tell him where to go.”

She added, “One time I stayed home and he took a friend with him, he was down around Chicago and he phoned me and said ‘find me a shortcut...’ His friend was quite amazed I could do that.”

Arthritis forced Joyce to put her days on the road behind her, and she started staying home while Garth trekked across the country.

There’s one trip in particular that haunts Joyce to this day. 

“April 22, 2005, at 2 p.m., I can still remember that day, I got a phone call saying my husband was in the heart hospital in Ogden, Utah.”

Garth, who was in his 70s at the time, had gone into the hospital complaining of pains in his chest. 

“He collapsed inside,” Joyce said, adding Garth was taken into the Intensive Care Unit after suffering a heart attack. 

“I was just shaking,” she detailed. “That was a scary day for me, and I will never forget that.”

Joyce and their children, who no longer lived at home, packed their bags and made the 22-hour drive to see Garth. 

A few days later, the family were told Garth could make the trip back home only on one condition: someone drive his hauling truck so he can lay down in the back. 

“He couldn’t go by plane, bus, and he couldn’t ride in a car,” stated Joyce. “Being his truck was down there and it has a sleeper in it, they said it was okay.”

She added, “There was no way we could have done it otherwise, he would have had to stay (in the United States).” 

Joyce urged her husband to retire, but regardless of his age, Garth refused.

“He tried (to work after), but he ended up in the hospital again,” Joyce said, adding that was when he finally hung-up his keys. 

“He had promised me when he was 70 he would quit driving.So, 71 came along, ‘well I feel good,’ (he said), so he kept driving, and then he turned 72. That April he had his heart attack, so he had to quit, and I was happy for that,” she told the Nouvelle. “It was nice having him home, I was living out there by myself all of the time.”

On Jan. 6, 2020, the Biddles moved into the Bonnylodge.

“So here we are,” declared Joyce. 

With eight grandchildren, and soon-to-be 13 great grandchildren, the Biddles are surrounded by love. 

The couple don’t have any words of wisdom to share when it comes to making love last. 

They just always made it work, Joyce said. 

“We just got along. We didn’t do much arguing... We just seemed to click.”

Meagan MacEachern, Bonnyville Nouvelle