Former Shoalhaven mayor Max Atkins and wife Val celebrated 60 years of marriage over lunch with family on Thursday, December 27.
The Yatte Yattah couple were joined by three generations of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as they celebrated their diamond anniversary at Bannisters Pavilion in Mollymook.
Their love story began when Max was 18 and Val was 15, on the north coast of New South Wales. While Val admitted it was not quite love at first sight, the pair eventually “went together” during high school.
“See, this is 60 years marriage today, but it started well before that,” Max laughed.
Val attended Bellingen Central School when they met, but moved to Coffs Harbour High School in her final two years. A few years later the couple married on December 27, 1958, at Bellingen.
Max and Val became high school teachers. Val taught home science and Max, science and agriculture.
“She has taught around the country, Murwillumbah, Tweed Heads, Wingham, Temora, Woolgoolga, and Wentworth in the south-west, after going out there, more or less, at the department’s request,” Max said.
They lived in Coffs Harbour when both taught at Woolgoolga, but Val took a break when their youngest child was born. They moved to the South Coast at the end of 1972, teaching at Milton Central School before switching to the Ulladulla High School when it was built in 1974.
Both retired from teaching in 1984 and they bought a property north of Milton. Their family then set-up the Willow Park Limousin stud. Max was raised on a dairy farm and said he had the show “gene” born into him.
“Both my grandparents had Australian jersey cattle. The descendants of them still show at Sydney show today,” he said.
What followed was 25 years of success and dozens of ribbons on the show circuit including Sydney Royal and local shows such as Berry, Nowra and Milton.
“But, in the middle of all that he got himself elected mayor,” Val said.
“Left me behind with the wheelbarrow and the cattle.
“I supported him going into it, because I didn’t think he had really had a chance, and low and behold he blew in.”
Max was elected to council in September 1980 and became mayor in September 1987. His 12-year unbroken term as mayor remains the unbroken record. He later received the title Emeritus Mayor from Local Government NSW for his service.
After selling the cattle herd in 2012, Max turned to growing roses as a hobby “in a fairly big way”. More than 250 show roses bloom at their property. But, flowers were not the secret to 60 years of marriage.
Val and Max agreed having a close family was most important.
“That’s the thing that has been great for 60 years, I guess,” Max said.