They’re 60 years wed, 52 years building businesses in the Wakatipu.
Happy Frankton couple Dick and Noeleen Wilson got some real VIP treatment on their recent 60th wedding anniversary.
The landmark day fell on May 28 and they celebrated with a low-key family affair at St Peter’s Church in Queenstown – where they also renewed the marriage vows first taken six decades earlier.
But the Wilsons were delighted when their diamond anniversary was also acknowledged with cards of congratulation from the Queen, Prime Minister John Key, deputy PM Bill English and Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand.
“Someone saw the one from the Queen and joked that I didn’t look 100,” Noeleen, 81, says.
“But of course, it’s one we are very proud of.”
The couple – who have seven children, 15 grandchildren and two great-grandkids – tied the knot at St John’s in Invercargill in 1949.
Dick, 82, worked as a tinsmith and panelbeater in Southland but the family moved to Frankton in 1957 to open that centre’s first garage and shop, the Frankton Service Centre, near where the main roundabout is now.
They’ve been here ever since. And teamwork has been a big part of their longstanding marriage.
“We came to Queenstown on holiday a lot and noticed that Frankton didn’t have a garage so we decided to give
it a go,” Noeleen explains.
“It was a great corner spot and we had the traffic passing from every direction.
“I remember we sold Europa petrol, which no one will have heard of these days.”
She adds: “Originally, we bought a section where the BP garage is now but the then local council wouldn’t allow us to operate from there as for some reason they didn’t want traffic stopping on that side of the road. It’s changed days, considering what’s there now.”
The Wilsons sold up in 1964 and started another garage, which they built at McBride Street – where the Mobil Station is now sited.
Noeleen even found time to become the first manager of Frankton’s now-closed Post Office, which she ran for 12 years from 1972.
The couple sold the McBride St service station in 1983 and not too long afterwards made a surprise move into tourism, starting one of the resort’s best-known attractions from scratch.
“I started clearing some land in Queenstown and it developed into the Kiwi Birdlife Park,” Dick explains.
“The idea came about when we had the garage and tourists who came in were always asking where they could see a kiwi.
“Because I was a welder I made the aviaries myself, mostly from piping that I’d picked up here and there and that way it saved us a lot of money when getting it all up and running.”
The Wilsons still helped out at the park until they were in their late 70s before retiring.
The business is still in the family, and these days is run by son Paul.
“Down the years we’ve had many tens of thousands of visitors to the park and it’s been a wonderful privilege bringing the birds to Queenstown,” says Dick.
“I still get a great feeling from people when they see a kiwi.”