If music be the food of love, as Shakespeare wrote, then Darrell and Val Garfoot have been feasting for more than 70 years.
It was late summer in 1947, and Darrell and a couple of mates were holidaying at Coolangatta. In the guest house where they were staying, Darrell was playing the piano when a young woman walked past.
“She smiled,” recalled Darrell, who is now 95. “And I said to my mates, ‘I’m going to marry that girl’.
“It was love at first sight.”
That girl who turned Darrell’s world upside down with a smile was 20-year-old Valma Morris. She had travelled from Brisbane with her parents.
“I went everywhere with them,” said Val. “I was a good girl.”
Her reaction to that moment was not quite as prophetic, or perhaps presumptuous, as Darrell’s.
“I thought, ‘That’s nice, a young man is playing the piano’,” she said.
After a week, Darrell and his mates drove back to Newcastle, and the Morris family stayed on.
A few days later, Val was called to the guest house phone.
“It was his Lordship,” she said. The smitten Novocastrian was asking her to come and meet his parents. “I thought, ‘I’ve got Buckley’s’.”
Her parents, however, agreed. She had a great time in Newcastle and was invited back for Darrell’s sister’s wedding. This time, Darrell proposed to Val.
At the end of the year, Darrell travelled to Brisbane for his fiancee’s 21st birthday. While he was visiting, Val said, “we went to the church, made arrangements, and the next time I saw him was our wedding day”.
June 12, 1948.
On the mantelpiece in the Garfoots’ lounge room, among photos showing members of their family (three children, 13 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren), is a shot featuring the bride and groom on that day 70 years ago.
“It was a beautiful day,” said Val, now aged 91. “We went to Caloundra for our honeymoon.”
While Darrell Garfoot can’t remember the song he was tinkling on the keys when his wife-to-be first walked by, he could never forget what he played for her on their honeymoon.
“At Last,” he said, before quoting lyrics from the 1940s song, later refashioned into a major hit by Etta James.
“That song fitted the occasion.”
For Darrell and Val Garfoot, At Last has been made to last.
When they sit down for lunch each day in their Cardiff home, the CD they play as their dining soundtrack features their song. And just like their song, the Garfoots’ marriage is an evergreen.
“He was then like he is now; kind, considerate, all the things you look for in a man,” Val said.
When asked what was wonderful about his wife, Darrell replied, “A good cook.”
“I come in handy!,” responded Val. “Oh, that’s charming!”
Darrell Garfoot will express his love today via one of his hobbies, cutting and polishing gemstones. A piece of topaz that he shaped has been set into a 70th wedding anniversary ring, which he will surprise his wife with.
“She’ll go mad,” he said.
“We’ve had the happiest marriage,” said Val Garfoot.
“It seems as if it was meant to be.”
Or as their song says: “You smiled, you smiled, oh, and then the spell was cast.”