Four hours after Warren and Lorraine Cooper’s wedding in Brisbane, Australia, they had a dust-up on the way to the Gold Coast.
Warren was driving his father-in-law’s unfamiliar car, and says Lorraine was telling him he wasn’t experienced with it and she should let her drive.
“In the end we had a damn argument and she told me she wishes she had never married me.”
Despite that early hiccup, the Queenstown couple today celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
A long-time former MP, Cabinet Minister and two-time Queenstown mayor, Warren, 85, says he can remember first clapping eyes on Lorraine “as though it was yesterday”.
In late 1956, she and two other Aussie travelling friends asked Warren’s dad Bill, aka ‘Wicked Willie’, for jobs at his Queenstown hotel, Wicked Willies.
Warren says he said to his dad, “you’re not going to employ those silly girls, are you?”
“He told me it was his hotel, he would do what he wished to do.”
When Lorraine returned to Australia, Warren pursued her. “I proposed dozens of times,” he says.
“Hundreds,” quips Lorraine.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to get married, I didn’t want to leave all my family and friends in Australia.
“I thought when I said ‘yes’ we were going to be over there, but then he changed his mind, and I have never regretted coming back [to Queenstown].”
Asked about their marriage, Warren says: “It would not have been possible for any person that married Lorraine to be unhappy.
“I consider myself extremely fortunate to have lived that period of time and enjoyed the whole of the marriage.”
Having served 36 years in local or central government, Warren says Lorraine coped well being a mother of five “with an absentee husband for the greater percentage of that time”.
Lorraine, now 81, confirms it was tough with young children, especially moving to Mosgiel, when Warren first got into national politics in 1975, then Wellington, when he became a National Party Cabinet Minister three years later.
“We’ve had to develop a fairly thick skin over the years because politics is not an easy life, for a family, particularly.
“I’m very lucky that I inherited my mother and father’s very placid natures, because we’ve had our ups and downs, everybody does.”
The couple had five children – Jo, sadly, died of cancer, aged 32 – and also have 11 grandchildren and, in the past six months, two great-grand-children.
Asked what makes a lasting marriage, Warren says he only has only piece of advice: “Choose the right person.”