FOR 81-year-old Pat Lines, growing up deaf in Southland was a challenge and “a bit lonely”.
As an only child, she said it was hard to make friends and have support as not many people knew sign language.
“I had a lot of cousins, but no sisters. It was just me. My family was so spread out.
“Communication was a little hard in my family because not many of them knew the language,” she told the Southland Express through sign language interpreter Roxanne Frahm.
However, everything changed when she met Graham Lines, who would become her husband.
“We don’t know how, it just happened. It was love at first sight,” Mrs Lines said.
Mr Lines agreed: “I loved her. She was so beautiful.”
They met each other through a friend, when she was 18 years old.
Mr Lines rode a scooter and would visit her every day in Ohai, where she lived.
“He went back and forth Invercargill to Ohai to visit me and my mother because, of course, she was there too,” Mrs Lines said.
The couple shared a passion for sport and Mr Lines even followed his future wife to Christchurch where she played in a table tennis team.
They soon got engaged and the marriage came three years after in 1957. In the same year, another big step and 18 other hearing impaired people started the Southland Deaf Club.
They met once a month to socialise.
“We got together to have a good time and to support each other.
“It was important to have a group of friends who understood us.”
The couple was acknowledged for their loyalty to the group for 63 years.
Last month, they were honoured during a lunch which celebrated International Week of the Deaf at the Invercargill Christian Centre.
Club president Roger Strong acknowledged the couple’s importance to the community.
“They started among a group of 20 people. Many of those members got married, moved away – these guys stayed here.
“They are really key for this community’s ongoing development.”
Mrs and Mr Lines were celebrated during the ceremony.
“I cried. It was a surprise and I’m really emotional,” Mr Lines said.
Mrs Lines said: “To be here with our family and friends… It is really special to us.”