Armidale is a long way from Victoria and even further from Holland, but Betty and Theo Duim couldn’t be happier with their life there.
Betty was born in Ballarat into a family of seven. Home life was certainly hectic, but she wouldn’t have had it any other way. After finishing school at 15 years of age she found a job in a local boutique before she began her nursing career. She absolutely loved nursing, but the best of her career was yet to come some years later when she took on the role as a cook for underprivileged children, and then worked as a cook at the Cottage-By-The-Sea, Queenscliff, run by the Ministering Children’s League, Melbourne.
“I had absolutely no experience when they employed me to cook for the children,” says Betty, “but they took me on anyway. There were 45 children plus staff to cook for and the kitchen was bigger than anything I had seen before. I burnt the first meal – but managed to salvage enough of it to feed everyone – and thankfully, things improved from there. I was there for 15 years.”
Theo was born in Holland into a family of seven children – six boys and one girl. In 1952, looking for a better life, his parents packed up the family and boarded a ship bound for Australia, landing in Port Arlington, Victoria on 13 June.
Theo attended school for the remainder of the year and then looked for his first job.
“In Holland, I had told my mother I wanted to be a bootmaker,” says Theo. “But she said, they don’t need bootmakers in Australia, but they always need painters. So being a good boy I listened to her and started painting houses.”
“After 50 years, I decided it was time to hang up my paintbrush. I’d done my apprenticeship by then.”
Betty and Theo recently celebrated 38 years of marriage. They were introduced to one another by Betty’s brother on one of Betty’s trips to Port Arlington to visit family – and it was in Port Arlington that they settled.
The move to Armidale came while in retirement and from a desire to live closer to Betty’s children. At first, Betty and Theo had their sights set on Port Macquarie or Coffs Harbour, but when Betty’s daughter found them a beautiful home in Armidale, the decision was made.
“It was a wonderful old home – built in 1950 – and we thought we’d live there for the rest of our lives,” says Betty. “It was very big, had magnificent gardens, lovely lawns and a swimming pool. It also had the best view you could ask for. We overlooked Armidale and could sit on our chairs and see the fireworks on special occasions.”
“We had 16 very happy years there, but Theo became ill and the home got too big for us – it was too much for us to manage.”
“There was something to be done every day,” says Theo. “I was in my late 70s and thinking that I could do without all of this – it was getting harder and harder. I thought it might be time to move, but never said anything to Betty, until one day we had lunch with the Probus club.”
“Lunch was at Oak Tree Retirement Village Taylor Street, and while we were there we were asked if we would like to see a couple of villas,” says Betty.
“Theo said, I could live here – and I said the same! We were very impressed.”
“We put our home on the market and it sold in three to four weeks, so we had a great big and successful garage sale. We ended up moving into our Oak Tree villa quite quickly as I was due to have a full knee replacement. It all worked out perfectly.”
Betty and Theo say their life has been perfect ever since.
“We have everything we could ask for and more,” says Theo. “We live in a nice peaceful setting in a lovely home that’s just big enough for us. I still have a little workshop with my tools hanging on the wall which means I can tinker as I please.”
“It feels like we’re living in a resort,” says Betty. “The people are lovely, and the amenities are marvellous – everything is taken care of for us. The gym is very handy as both Theo and I need to do gym work. There’s always something going on to join in with if you want to, but you don’t have to if it’s not for you.”
If Betty ever loses track of where Theo is, she knows where to look. “He particularly enjoys sitting in his reading room – it’s a lovely spot on our patio which is often in the sun, and it’s just perfect for reading.”
To find out more about Oak Tree Retirement Village Taylor Street, Armidale or for a personal tour call 1300 367 155 or visit www.oaktreegroup.com.au