Chris and Meg fell in love nearly 60 years ago, building a love that still burns bright and a life thousands of miles from their respective homelands.
Married for more than 57 years, the two agree that love for one another, a sense of humour, common interests, and a shared religion are what have nurtured their strong, lasting bond.
They are thankful for each other, their four children and extended family, and Canada – a country that allowed their love to flourish, provided ample opportunities for them and their family, and welcomed their respective cultural backgrounds.
“Meg is lucky she came to Canada,” laughs Chris. “Why? Because she met me.”
Meg laughs and gets comfortable on the couch across from Chris in his arm chair. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day on the horizon, the two have agreed to a late January interview to share a snapshot of their love story.
Meg and Chris in their Calgary home.
Their home is peppered with family photos of their children, Helena (Lena), Zoe, Alexia, Andreas, as well as their grandchildren and extended family at home and abroad.
Chris came to Canada from Larissa, Greece in 1951, along with two of his brothers, and Meg came to Canada from Mumbles, South Wales in 1957.
Chris had learned some French in school in Greece, but did not know any English when he moved to Calgary. He “picked it up from customers” while working at The Silk Hat coffee shop, washing floors and doing dishes.
Meg arrived in Canada initially in Ontario to teach. She taught for a year and, although she planned to visit home that summer, returned early upon hearing that her father died.
“I returned to Canada after that but I couldn’t afford to go back to Wales again as I had planned, so I came to Calgary. My sister’s friend was a war bride living in Calgary so I came to stay with her and found myself a teaching job here.”
It was at a dance hall in Calgary that Meg met Chris. He loves music, plays the Flamenco guitar and liked to dance the Tango. They both liked to ballroom dance and formed an instant and strong connection upon meeting. Chris says they were drawn to each other.
However, Shortly after their meeting, Chris’ father asked him to return to Greece. Meg was living with four other women at that time. After Chris left, Meg moved back in with her first Calgary roommate. Meg didn’t know if Chris would ever return from Greece.
Chris called the house where he thought Meg was living to say, “Will you marry me and come to Greece with me.” Mag was not there to get the message and by the time she did, it was too late. He was gone.
Chris was in Greece for six months and stayed in touch with Meg via letters. Deciding he was never coming back, Meg resigned from her teaching job and returned to Wales. Still, the two continued to communicate through letters.
Finally Chris asked, “Are we going back to Canada or am I coming to Wales?”
“Wales was not accepting of foreigners at that time,” says Meg. “I was afraid that if Chris moved to Wales, we would not be accepted. We decided to return to Canada and we were married that October – 1959 – in the Anglican church.”
Meg says it was very important for them to agree on one religion. She was Anglican, but it became very clear to her that Chris really lived his religion. The Greek Orthodox faith was strong. Chris “crossed” himself before he ate and before bed, he acknowledged a number of significant religious days, he liked going to church.
“I talked to the Anglican minister, who told me that High Anglican is very similar to Greek Orthodox and Catholic.”
After their third child was born, a Greek Orthodox Priest moved to Calgary and got in touch with them. Because they had not been married in the Greek church, their marriage was not registered in Athens, which could have implications on land Chris owned in Greece.
They decided to get married again – this time in the Greek Orthodox church. Meg was also baptized in the church at that time.
Chris’ father had owned a furniture factory in Greece and had taught his sons carpentry. Chris got a job working as a carpenter in Calgary and was sent to SAIT to get his carpentry ticket by his employer at the time. He later started his own carpentry business, worked doing renovations and as a carpenter for the Department of National Defense. He made a switch to food service, opened his own grocery stores, and later started a Greek Import business.
Meg says Chris was a hard worker, but was always supportive of her ambitions, too.
“My father was disabled in World War I and my parents worked hard so all of their children would have a good education,” says Meg. “So it was very important for me to do something with my education. I really enjoyed being a teacher, and later a principal.
“Some Greeks at that time would have said that the wife has to stay home. But Chris understood and supported my decision – so long as everything in the home was taken care of.”
Throughout their life together, they, along with their children from a young age, visited Greece many times, particularly when Chris started his import business. They also returned to Wales many times.
“It was very important to us for our children to know their cousins and heritage,” says Meg.
Meg displays a Welsh Love Spoon carved from a single piece of wood, which represents Chris’ Greek Heritage, her Welsh heritage, their love for each other and their four children.
Chris suffered a stroke 17 years ago, which partially paralyzed his left side. He can no longer use his left arm or play the guitar and he walks with a cane. While life became more challenging because of the stroke, the couple continues to enjoy each other’s company, an active social life with friends and family and involvement with the Greek community in Calgary.
Meg was sick last year with shingles and was unable to care for Chris at that time so they moved him into a nursing home.
“After I started feeling better and once he had been living apart from me for three months, I thought, ‘What is the purpose of this? Why am I cooking for myself while he is somewhere else? When you’ve chosen a partner and spent your life together, that relationship is not just company, it’s where you find your life’s meaning. I just decided it doesn’t matter how much work it is. I brought him back home.”
Classic LifeCare provides a Heath Care Worker for Chris for a few hours each week to take him swimming and offer whatever assistance he may need.
Chris smiles with shining eyes as Meg describes his love of people and children, his desire to make others happy and how easy he has been to live with.
“He is a very good man and is very romantic,” smiles Meg. “He is quick to say, ‘I love you very much,’ or ‘I want to do this for you.’”
“It’s in my nature,” explains Chris, with a grin.
“Yes it is,” says Meg. “It’s harder for me to say those words, even though I feel them. But I certainly appreciate having heard those things throughout my life with Chris. We have our differences but really do love the life we built.”