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Light on their feet

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

When they first met, Barbara didn’t think much of Keith, but having just celebrated 53 years of marriage, it proves first impressions can sometimes be very wrong.

Born and bred in Gunnedah, Keith Constable was one of five children in his family raised on a property some 65 kilometres away at a little place by the name of Colly Blue. His dad was a shearer and great horseman; Keith’s dad also had a great love of the land. It turns out Keith is very much a chip off the ol’ block!

Keith completed school up to fourth grade, mostly by correspondence, and gained the rest of his education on the land. At just seven years of age, Keith was shearing and killing sheep, milking cows and making butter. By 14 years of age he was doing heavy work, including bur cutting. By age 16 he was managing a property on his own.

Barbara was also born in Gunnedah with her three siblings. She left school after completing her intermediate certificate and worked in office administration, in a department store and as a picture theatre usher – oh the movies she saw!

Barbara went to school with one of Keith’s sisters. “When we were first introduced, I didn’t like him at all,” remembers Barbara. “That obviously changed!”

Keith and Barbara’s first home together was on a property at Colly Blue where they lived happily for 21 years. There they had two children – both boys – and over the years their family has grown to include two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren. When they sold the house at Colly Blue they bought a home in Gunnedah, but they have also lived in Mudgee.

The years of hard, physical labour eventually took their toll on Keith’s shoulders. When his shoulders started to trouble him, he decided it was time for a career change. First it was foreman at the abattoir in Gunnedah, and then Keith and Barbara worked together at Paspaley Pearls in Coolah.

They have also enjoyed a lifetime of wonderful travel, and have visited places including England, Spain, India, Fiji and the Cook Islands – just to name a few!

Now happily retired and living back in Gunnedah and at Oak Tree Retirement Village, Keith and Barbara almost can’t walk down the street without a friendly wave or “hello” coming their way. The couple’s lifelong love of ballroom dancing saw them, for many years, teach the debutants in Gunnedah and from the surrounding districts to dance.

“There were three debutant balls in Gunnedah every year,” says Barbara. “We taught all the young ones to dance in preparation for the balls. We did it for about 15 years and I’d say we probably taught as many as 800 people to dance. It was a wonderful time in our lives.”

“Now that we’re back in Gunnedah we often get asked if we’d be interested in teaching dancing again,” says Keith. “It was great, but we’ve done our time. We’ll leave it to someone else now.” While retirement has been very good to both Keith and Barbara, Keith was recently diagnosed with bone cancer and has just finished his chemotherapy.

“We couldn’t be happier to be living amongst friends at a time like this,” says Keith. “It’s made a world of difference to both of us.”

To find out more about Oak Tree Retirement Villages, call 1300 367 155.