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'I thought he was a bit of a weirdo" - local couple celebrates 50 years

Bill and Jean Neilson will be celebrating 50 years of marriage on Saturday. And don’t think it was an easy feat. It takes a lot of patience to be married that long to the same person, both Bill and Jean agreed.
Bill and Jean Neilson web
Jean and Bill Neilson celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Saturday. Be patient is their best advice.

Bill and Jean Neilson celebrated 50 years of marriage on Saturday.

And don’t think it was an easy feat. It takes a lot of patience to be married that long to the same person, both Bill and Jean agreed.

They met in 1969 in Richmond and Jean didn’t think she’d made much of a first impression.

She had just fallen down the Parliament building stairs in Victoria as a result of an epileptic seizure and had broken both cheekbones and nose from the nasty fall.

“I was a real sight,” Jean recalled, rolling her eyes.

Jean went home to Richmond and her brother decided to have a get together that night and Bill was one of the guests.

Their first meeting brought mixed results.

“I thought he was a bit of a weirdo,” Jean said. “The next day Bill called the house to apologize for staring at me so much - impressed the hell out of my mother - didn’t impress me particularly - but that’s how we met.”

Bill admits he’d had a few drinks that night.

“I didn’t really see her injuries,” Bill said. “I just thought she was one of the prettiest people I had seen in quite a while.”

Their first date was to see the movie The Graduate and for the next date they attempted to do a trip to Bellingham but as they approached the border Jean had a seizure and they turned back.

Bill used to be a medic in the army and was working in the medical field when he met Jean so her seizures didn’t faze him.

“It was just one of those things that happened,” Bill said. “Her parents thought that would’ve scared me off but I called the next day to make sure she was OK.”

Back then it was difficult to control the seizures, not like today where medication is a good way to manage the condition.

“You have to remember the times we lived in back then - we didn’t have the medications we do now - back then it wasn’t considered a medical condition - it was considered a mental illness.”

But that wasn’t how Bill saw it.

“It didn’t mean anything to me,” he said.

It was just part of life.

“We courted for a couple years and decided to get married.”

Bill started to laugh as he saw the look on Jean’s face.

“It was quite a courtship - we were forever breaking up,” Jean recalled fondly.

Bill chuckled.

“And we never wanted to see the other person ever again!” Jean said with exaggerated drama in her voice.

Bill even wrote her a letter from Gibraltar Mines that said he never wanted to see her again.

They can both laugh about it now.

The marriage proposal wasn’t very romantic either.

“Aw, let’s put ‘em out of their misery - will you marry me?” Bill recalled.

The pair moved around a bit to follow Bill’s career in construction. First in Prince Rupert then at Gibraltar Mine in the Cariboo and they lived in a travel trailer to make it easier to follow the construction jobs.

When Bill became a first aid instructor they went to Granisle, then Equity Silver in Houston, then the couple made their home in Prince George as Bill went up to Tumbler Ridge for work.

Bill said he’s what he calls a mobile worker - going where ever he was required, often working at logging camps and then in his later years he became a safety person and still traveled the province for work.

“That took me to retirement and I did quite well at it,” Bill said.

The couple never had any children and in Prince George moved from the travel trailer, to a mobile home, a home in South Fort George and then settled into their current home in the neighbourhood near Ron Brent school.

There’s some perspective that comes 50 years later.

“You have to be patient with each other and of course there’s love there and that’s a big word,” Jean said.

“We still have arguments just like every other couple - but they pass - that’s the big thing people have to understand - you can get into disruptive behaviour and it passes,” Bill said. “Hopefully you let it go and you don’t -"

"dwell on it,” Jean finished the thought.