Ellis + Lea: Still the one I Love


Ellis and Lea: both well and truly in tune with each other after several years of marriage, and an inspiration to new and old couples alike in the knowledge of what constitutes a successful marriage. High on the list: respecting and continually making the effort to understand to each other. In their teenage years they did distance (for a commendably long time), to marry upon arrival back in Sydney together. Ellis and Lea speak open and honestly to how they have made it work for them for so long.

How did you meet? Lea: We knew each other for many years but first noticed one another as teenagers. Ellis: We were both born in Shanghai in China in the roaring 20s. Right from the start as teenagers I knew she was my one and only.

How did your partner propose? Lea: After the war we were living on opposite sides of the globe. Ellis used to write me regular love letters to try and lessen the distance. In our correspondence as we planned for Ellis to come to Australia to be with me, we decided to get married. Ellis: We were separated for six years. During those years, I sent passionate love letters. My letters to her had such deep feeling and I really poured my heart out and I felt it was something very special. She agreed with those sentiments. I think from those letters she realised the way I felt and although we were separated she was determined that we should be together. At a young age, never having been on a plane before, Lea went to Canberra and asked to see the Minister of Immigration to request a permit for me to come to Australia. That wasn’t possible but the next best result was that she approached the MP of Woollahra where she lived who happened to be the close friend of the Minister of Immigration at the time, Harold Holt. From that point, there were some challenges to overcome and it still took another two years for me to arrive in Australia. We knew that when we were reunited we would be married. Her perseverance was ultimately successful and the fulfilment of our dream was realised. When we met on my arrival in Sydney our feelings for one another were so strong we were immediately able to bridge the years of separation.

Do you remember your wedding day? What was it like? Ellis: All weddings are exciting and for me it was even more special. It was a realisation of a dream which could have been the impossible dream because of the distance that existed between us. And here I was standing next to my beloved – holding our hands together and looking at one another. I think the feelings of elation in my heart just welled up. I just felt so happy because my dreams had been realised and I knew she also felt the same from simply the look in her eyes. Lea: It was beautiful. All I remember was being with my one true love.

How did you know your partner was the one? Lea: The look in his eyes. Ellis: Right from the start I knew Lea to be a very gentle and caring person and someone I could very easily communicate with. We were able to, through that communication, get to know the type of person the other one was. She is a very truthful person. What she said she meant. There was nothing that she said that was a “put up”.

What do you admire most about your spouse? Ellis: Our marriage proved that Lea was someone who was dependable, loving and supportive. As I was involved in communal work, which took me away from home some evenings, it was important for Lea to take care of the family and provide a strong loving foundation for harmony within the family. Lea: His generous heart.

How have you kept your relationship strong all these years? Ellis: The first thing between us is that we have respect for one another and we wouldn’t do anything to take advantage of one another. It’s understanding the needs of my partner and she with me and that those needs need to be met to the satisfaction of each party. Relationships need compassion and love. You know love is a word you hear bandied about – but in our case I felt there was fundamental true love so that we each gained strength from one another. I also feel marriage is a partnership between equal partners – each contributing to ensure the success of the relationship. We complement each other. Lea: We’ve looked after one another as a first priority and don’t take the other for granted.

How do you both deal with conflict? Lea: Try to understand the other’s point of view. Ellis: The road you travel in marriage is not always smooth but the point is not to magnify the differences or to let them fester because once that happens it creates a very uncomfortable situation. It is important to consider sacrifice and compromise on each side for the good of the relationship.

What do you find attractive about your partner? Lea: His eyes and his handsome smile. Ellis: Her infectious smile and that’s so important. It creates a warm atmosphere when someone smiles rather than being sullen. No matter what the situation she always manages to smile which breaks the ice and puts the other person at ease.

Have there been any challenges in your relationship? Lea: Not too many because we have always tried to keep communication open between us. Ellis: The challenge is to make a success of the marriage. You have to be aware of the internal and external factors that could impact on our family. We didn’t allow those challenges to get the better of us. Because we were able to create that fundamental harmony, it minimises the negative effect of any challenges that we faced.

The first challenge we had to face was to think how we can afford to buy a house. We lived in a flat and we said to ourselves, the only way is discipline. We both worked and we set aside one salary that was not touched. There was no such thing as purchasing items and paying it off (layby) so nothing was bought unless we saved up for them. We had to realise that once we do buy a house we are committed to a mortgage. We had to restrict ourselves from doing things or buying things. One simple example – there was no laundry in our unit so washing had to be done in the gas copper at ground level. We saved for a number of years to be able to afford a Hoovermatic washing machine so for the first time we could wash clothes in our flat. It might not be a challenge in today’s terms but if you turned back 60 years these were real challenges that we faced to set up a life for ourselves together and raise a family.

How have you helped each other’s goals? Ellis: We have listened to one another and been honest with one another. Lea: Listened to one another.

What are the three most important ingredients of a successful marriage? Lea: Talking honestly to one another, understanding and supporting one another’s goals. Ellis: Mutual respect and understanding, family solidarity and commitment to one another. Never forget to acknowledge birthdays and anniversaries.

What advice do you have for young couples? Ellis: Be aware of the needs of your partner. Be respectful of and honest to one another. Be polite and generous to one another and don’t forget to say thank you. We might often say thank you at work or to friends but it is equally, if not more important to show the same gratitude and appreciation to your partner. It’s also a lesson for the children. If they see the atmosphere of appreciation and thanks in the family then it is something they will also carry into adult life and in the process create a warm and friendly home environment. Lea: Always be open and talk to one another.

What is marriage to you? Ellis: I think it’s the culmination of the experiences one has through adulthood. I have found great contentment and fulfilment in having a loving partner in life. A partner who understood me and to whom I reciprocated. Lea: Caring for one another and sometimes compromising for your shared goals.


Photography by Glen Edwards.


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