100th birthday to be celebrated with her 'mate' by her side
EVERY day at 9.30am, Bernie Fielding strides through the doors of Blue Care Bundaberg Riverlea eager to visit his sweetheart.
And at 1pm that same day he whispers goodbye, promising to be there the same time tomorrow.
It is a comfortable routine the couple has fallen into after Pearl moved to the aged care facility 18 months shy of her 100th birthday this Thursday.
In 51 years of marriage, the couple has yet to have an argument and their fondness for one another is as strong as it ever was.
However theirs is a love story that almost never happened.
At 36, Pearl Phelan met a strapping young bloke, 20 years her junior, with a gleam in his eye and the world at his feet.
Bernie fell in love and spent the next 13 years until their eventual marriage on April 19, 1965 showing her why they were destined for one another.
After initially declining Bernie's advances because the age difference felt too big a void, it was just four days before Bernie was due to leave for a stint in the army that Pearl came to him and said "I think I'll come with you”.
"I held on to him,” Pearl said. "And so she did, and so we still hold on to each other,” Bernie said.
The two lived, worked and loved in Victoria, Bernie building boats and Pearl taking on book keeping jobs, until, at 48, Bernie decided it was time for a change and the couple retired to Bundaberg.
Here they spent their days doing "absolutely bloomin' nothing except living”. Fishing, swimming and long walks on the beach took up their days.
They lived off their investments and built a home at Riverview, where they stayed for 32 years until 2015 when Pearl moved into Blue Care.
"I hung on to her until 2015. She was supposed to go in (to care) in 2013,” Bernie said.
Pearl's memory has faded now, but it needn't be a worry with Bernie at her side.
"He remembers things better than I do,” Pearl said.
A keen dancer with a love for food, life, Pearl says, has been kind to her.
"I've had a very good life,” she said.
Something her husband has had a hand in.
"We've been great mates. He took me his way and I stayed put,” Pearl said.
"I never wanted anyone else. If you've got the compatibility to stay with your mate it will work,” Bernie said.
Asked about turning 100, Pearl wasn't too fussed.
"Another year older, shush,” she joked.
"They (birthdays) have a habit of coming around.”
If Bernie has one flaw it's his dislike of dancing, but it never bothered Pearl, who had a steady stream of willing partners.
"I danced all my life. Saturday night dances everyone went to the dance hall,” she said.
Pearl will celebrate her milestone at Blue Care on Thursday with a big birthday cake and relatives, including her brother Michael, by her side.