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Williams Lake couple celebrating 70 years of love

Wilhelmina and Hank Pankratz say the secret to their marriage’s success is thanks to love, commitment

Wilhelmina Pankratz remembers when she first laid eyes on her husband in 1953.

“In my case it was love at first sight,” she said, having met Henry (Hank) Pankratz at a social event while he was at a Canadian Forces Base at Camp Borden, Ontario.

Wilhelmina promptly went home and told her sister she had met the man she was going to marry — the only problem was, she wasn’t sure how she would see him again.

But in June 1953, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, and the big party meant everyone was there, including Hank. Wilhelmina said she first came up with the excuse to speak to him to ask for help finding the young boy she was looking after, but the young boy quickly gave her away.

Thankfully, Hank asked her to a dance the same night anyhow, and Wilhelmina admitted to even kissing him the same night, against her principles.

Within six short weeks, Hank had asked for her hand in marriage and also if she would relocate with him to Saskatoon while he finished his degree.

The two married on April 28, 1954 in Langham, Saskatchewan during a blizzard. Both Wilhelmina’s gold wedding band and their wedding photographer cost $5 each, which was a decent amount of money in those days.

As an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces, Hank’s work took him away a lot, which was a strain on Wilhelmina, as she stayed home to raise their four children. Then in 1963, Hank returned to school to get his degree in dentistry to shift careers and be home for the family.

In 1972, Hank set up a private dental practice in Williams Lake and retired in 1990. Wilhelmina ran an antiques business in Williams Lake, Antiques and Things, until 1978 when she lost most of her sight.

On April 28, 2024, the couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary at the Long House in Williams Lake with 26 of their family members.

“Here we are 70 years later and I’m still in love with him,” confessed Wilhelmina, as she spoke to Black Press Media from the retirement home where they live in Williams Lake.

When asked what the secret to their marriage’s longevity was, Hank said they both had the same commitment to one another and they were “not deterred by any obstacles in the way.”

He said they always remembered love was the object of their marriage.

Hank expressed appreciation for Wilhelmina to be looking after the children so much on her own when he was away from home during his time in the military.

The couple received a letter from King Charles and his wife Camilla in honour of their anniversary.

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Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

I moved back to my hometown of Williams Lake after living away and joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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