In this three-part series, we speak to three society couples – who have been married for decades and are still very much in love – about how they met and what it takes to make relationships work. This is their story.
Once in a while we come across a beautiful love story that could inspire the making of a moving movie. It tugs at the heartstrings and makes one believe in happily ever after.
This is one such love story, the coming together of two strangers under strange circumstances over four decades ago.
“It was an unexpected meeting,” opens up Dato’ Sri Jeffrey Raymond, CEO of OEM Autoseats Malaysia and an avid watch collecter, about his “girlfriend of 48 years” Datin Sri Joyce Raymond. “One day before I was to leave for Madras (today known as Chennai) in India on a passenger ship ‘Rajarullah’, my best friend invited me for a drink. He was coming with his girlfriend and she brought along my date for that evening because I had just broken up with mine.”
The year was 1970 and Dato’ Sri Jeffrey was about to embark on a month long journey via land to Germany from India.
All of them met at 7pm and by the time Dato’ Sri Jeffrey dropped Datin Sri Joyce off at midnight, there were some romantic sparks between them. “I remember her being very quiet and gentle in her demeanour. I asked for her address and promised to write during my travel. Now, keep in mind that this was at a time where there were no cell phones and she didn’t even have a phone in her house.”
Going the distance
When he left Malaysia, it took him seven days to get to Madras and in his loneliness, he wrote a few letters to this lady he had just briefly met and posted the letter once he reached land.
“To get her reply, I had to inform her of my next location – Kabul in Afghanistan – and there at the general post office, we travellers could pick up our letters at a counter called ‘Post Resante’. It existed in every major city.”
From Madras, Dato’ Sri Jeffrey travelled by train to Delhi for two days and then boarded a bus to the Pakistan border. There he hopped on another train to Lahore in Pakistan, crossed the Khyber Pass by lorry to get to Kabul. That’s where he picked up his first reply from Datin Sri Joyce.
“I was overjoyed and replied her letter immediately, not without including my next destination – Alexandriapolis, Greece. We communicated frequently and I remember picking up her letters from Tehran, Rome and Munich, the final destination.
It took him 29 days in all to get to Munich and he stayed there for a few months, working on the Olympic stadium with very good pay. “The only solace I had was the correspondence between me and Datin. And love too blossomed in our hearts unbeknownst to each other. When I came home at the end of 1970, I met her the very next day and discovered we were both in love.
Court to court
“We courted for about three years before getting married at the Registrar on Dec 21, 1974. There was no grand proposal like these days. We agreed to get our marriage registered, she got the forms, I filled it up, we got the date and were declared husband and wife.”
Exactly one year later, they got married in church and had a little party in his house.
“The marriage was a very testing time for both of us. We had no money, we stayed with my mother before renting a house. We finally bought our own place in 1986. We had our first child Keith in 1976 and due to financial contraints, Kim came along in 1985 when we were more stable. We then had our third child Karl in 1988.”
Despite the hardship, Dato’ Sri Jeffrey says he must credit his wife for keeping them together and helping out with the finances during the early years.
“I like everything about my wife but if I have to pick one trait that I love the most, it is her ability to not pick fights. She’s calm and composed and I can proudly say that we never have used harsh words to each other and never had major fights, especially in the presence of our children. She’s the pillar of my strength and a wonderful lady who has done well in bringing up our kids.”
The lady speaks
The one thing Datin Sri Joyce still remembers about her husband when she first met him was his friendliness and ability to make people comfortable, something he still does till this very day.
“At that time, I never had an inkling that we would be married but since he asked me for my address and wanted to write, I did not think much of it. I also had no idea of the trip he was going to make. It was unbelievable, bordering on being foolish but tremendously adventurous!”
Dato’ Sri Jeffrey is a kind man, she says with great admiration, as well as generous and sincere to everyone, be it to old friends or new acquaintances.
“Marriage has its ups and downs but one must approach relationships with practicality and a desire to choose happiness. It’s never easy but one must try. I always remind myself of this quote: ‘you make your bed and lie in it’. To me the key to a successful marriage is silence, and in the long term – which matters most – to have a long and wonderful marriage filled with kids and grandkids.”
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