How a beautiful love story was tragically cut short by virus
When Ronald and Phyllis Horton set eyes on each other it was love at first sight.
"The first night I saw him he wore a navy suit, pale blue shirt and tie," she recalls, not quite 16 and immediately smitten by the handsome 19-year-old.
Within 18 months of meeting at her cousin June's 18th birthday they wed.
Married for 67 years on July 17, they were inseparable until Ron's dementia saw him placed in care in Hoppers Crossing a year ago.
On Thursday, Phyllis farewelled the love of her life, another victim of the pandemic.
Mrs Horton wants people to know how devastating it is to lose a loved one to coronavirus. It doesn't matter how old they are.
Not being able to hold her husband's hand in those last hours and grandchildren and great grandchildren unable to attend the funeral to celebrate his life was devastating.
"The last time I saw him was six weeks before he died. I had to be gowned up with a mask, gloves and the works," she said.
"When they brought him in he didn't know who I was. Even through his dementia he had always known who I was."
He died on July 30, aged 88, and two days after being hospitalised.
"I couldn't hold his hand and whisper in his ear," she said.
When his death was imminent they were allowed to see him from behind a window. But Mrs Horton, 84, said she chose not to because he would not be aware of her presence.
"People are foolish if they are not taking this seriously," she said.
She said the secret to their enduring marriage was communication.
"I had sadness in my life. My mother died just five weeks after my father returned from five years in the war in the Middle East. When I met Ron my life was wonderful again," she said.
"Ron gave me light."
They didn't have a lot but delighted in simple pleasures. Her husband loved family, red wine, whisky, Holden V8's and the Richmond footy club.
"Ron would hide little things under my pillow or under the bed," she said.
"He'd come home and hide something behind his back and I would have to guess. It might be a little bottle of perfume, a Kodak film in a cylinder, a bickie tin … even a wooden spoon to mix the custard.
"Ron never swore or had a harsh word - we would talk it through.
"He was always telling me that he loved me and we never went to bed with a harsh word."
Some of their fondest times was packing lunch and thermos to head off to Punt Rd to watch the Tigers.
Starting married life in Pascoe Vale, they moved to Werribee South and ran an apricot orchard and then a poultry farm.
They later had a milk bar in Laverton before settling in Hoppers Crossing and then Tarneit.
The couple had five children, 13 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.
"Every love story is beautiful but ours is my favourite," Mrs Horton said.
Originally published as How a beautiful love story was tragically cut short by virus