Love really is grand

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A lifetime of love, faith and reading The Catholic Weekly: Denis and Claire Garty relax at home in Wyoming as Claire holds a photo of the couple on their wedding day. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
A lifetime of love, faith and reading The Catholic Weekly: Denis and Claire Garty relax at home in Wyoming as Claire holds a photo of the couple on their wedding day. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Marriage, like a fine wine, only improves with age, as the saying goes. Catholic couple Denis, 94, and Claire Garty, 93, of Wyoming are no exception.

The Gartys celebrated 70 years of marriage – their Platinum Jubilee – on 27 January among family and friends.

“We intended having a big function with family and friends, but the way things are with the virus we just had a small dinner at the Gosford Sailing Club with our children,” said Denis.

In 1951 the couple wed at St Mary’s Church, North Sydney, and raised five children in Manly.

The Gartys attended St Kieran’s church, Manly Vale, before moving to the Gosford area to retire. The couple now attend Our Lady of the Rosary church in Wyoming eacg week.

Their dedication to their Catholic faith is evident in their cozy Wyoming villa as three separate marriage anniversary blessings from three different popes – St John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis respectively – adorn their wall within earshot of their pet budgerigar Francis, namesake of the current pope.

“We intended having a big function with family and friends, but the way things are with the virus we just had a small dinner at the Gosford Sailing Club with our children.” – Denis Garty

Indeed, the story of the Gartys and their long life of love began, fittingly, before Mass at the footsteps of St Michael’s Cathedral in Wagga during a weekend trip with respective friends in 1948.

After a picnic with the mutual friends, the two parted ways.

Denis, however, was enamoured of the young Claire and proceeded to phone her soon after.

But like all love stories, things were not so straight forward. Claire had her hesitations.

“When we got back to Sydney Denis rang a few times and my name was called out, that Claire Sloane was wanted on the phone,” she told The Catholic Weekly.

Papal marriage blessings – three in all, from three different popes – hang on the wall of their home. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Papal marriage blessings – three in all, from three different popes – hang on the wall of their home. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“When I got this call, I said ‘If it’s Dennis Garty tell him I’m out!’

“As time went on, he was persistent and he rang many, many times and we started going out,” she said.

Their courtship and engagement was a long one, not so surprising for the era as Claire, who was training to be a nurse with the Sisters of Mercy at the Mater Hospital in North Sydney, was not permitted to marry during her training.

As always, Denis was persistent.

“I used to go on the weekend and give Claire a hand in the scullery at the hospital,” he said.

After marriage, Claire worked as a nurse while Denis worked in banking.

“Patience and respect are important in a marriage.” – Denis Garty

Between them they raised five children: Brian, Elizabeth, Peter, Andrew and Paul – sending them to Catholic schools and working hard to get their children through their education.

The Gartys are also proud grandparents to 10 and great-grandparents to four.

Denis and Claire’s advice for young couples?  Patience, tolerance and – most of all – respect.

“Patience and respect are important in a marriage,” said Denis.

Nevertheless, the couple expressed sympathy for younger couples today who face increasingly expensive living costs

Denis and Claire Garty hold a copy of their favourite read, The Catholic Weekly. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Denis and Claire Garty hold a copy of their favourite read, The Catholic Weekly. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“I don’t know they do it. It’s hard for couples today,” Claire noted.

“We’ve been very fortunate and we’ve had a quite a colourful life but we are happy with our lot including trips to Germany to see the Oberammergau Passion Play, a visit to The Vatican, Canada, as well as a trip to China.”

And over their 70 years of marriage the Gartys have been dedicated readers of The Catholic Weekly – their favourite newspaper.

For their entire marriage the couple have bought and read the paper every weekend, which adds up to well over 3000 editions.

“Every Sunday we buy The Catholic Weekly. We’ve always bought it. We’ve never been without it,” said Claire.

Over the decades the Gartys, no doubt, would have followed keenly through the paper and other media the cause of their favourite local St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, with a dedication matched by annual visits to her tomb in North Sydney on the day of her feast.

“Every Sunday we buy The Catholic Weekly. We’ve always bought it. We’ve never been without it.” – Claire Garty

“I am very devoted to St Mary MacKillop,” said Claire.

“Near my bed I have a little spot and she’s got photos and little things of her.

“She is our patron saint, there’s no doubt about that … I pray every time for St Mary MacKillop for her help.

No doubt, the Gartys keep a keen eye on stories and are informed on news of more upcoming Australian saints.

“And now there’s another saint on the way it seems – Eileen O’Connor. I read that in The Catholic Weekly too!” laughed Denis.

And now, both Denis and Claire are in The Catholic Weekly too.