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Letters led to a lasting love story

Jessica CuthbertAlbany Advertiser
Camera IconCredit: Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

A relationship that started over pen and paper during World War II has flourished into a 70-year marriage.

Albany couple Hank, 94, and Clara Van Der Beek, 93, pictured, fell in love after exchanging a few hundred letters.

They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on Monday last week. Their love story dates back to World War II, when they become pen pals while Hank served alongside Clara’s brother.

Mr Van Der Beek remembers the moment he first laid eyes on his wife Clara — in a photograph.

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“I was in the Dutch Marines serving in the war with her brother,” he said. “He had a lovely photo of Clara, he showed me one day and I thought to myself, ‘By golly, that’s a lovely girl’.

“I said to her brother, ‘Do you think she would mind if I write her a letter?’. We then began writing each other. When I returned home after the war, we finally had a chance to meet and fell madly in love.”

Originally from the Netherlands, they moved to Australia in 1952.

“She’s a lovely girl, my Clara. It’s always been the two of us,” Mr Van Der Beek said.

“I fell in love with everything about her.”

Mr Van Der Beek has clear memories of their first meeting after he returned from the war.

“It’s a funny story, actually. She came in on the train on Sunday morning, I was on leave from the marines and she was on the train but she couldn’t get out — the handle was stuck,” he said. “A couple of soldiers and I came to her rescue and that’s the first time we met.”

The couple celebrated their milestone at their home at Ingenia Gardens in Yakamia.

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