After 52 years, he finally put a ring on it Mr Favayo Lawrence Chinyere and his wife Irene on their wedding day

Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Chronicle Reporter 

FORGET Romeo and Juliet, disremember Anthony and Cleopatra – this is the greatest love story of all time!

Two lovebirds in their 70s, from Mberengwa in the Midlands, have finally tied the knot, 52 years after cupid shot his arrow through their hearts.

Mr Favayo Lawrence Chinyere (77) and the love of his life, Irene (70), who are primary school sweethearts from as long ago as 1961, had to wait until last week to solemnise their undying love in “white wedding” bliss. 

It has always been their burning ambition to say “I do,” with the bride in white in front of family and friends.

The sweethearts have been customarily married since 1963, have nine children and 12 grandchildren.

The pressure of providing for a large family made it impossible to formally get married.

In May when their children, nephews, nieces and grandchildren asked them what they would want to be done for them in appreciation of the sacrifices they had made in raising them, they promptly said they wanted a wedding.

Their offspring responded in a touching manner by sponsoring a lavish wedding that took place on September 3 at their homestead in Zivengwa Village in Ward B1.

When the couple talks about their love, there is no mistaking that sincere ring of deep love that most people only experience as children.

The Chinyeres can trace their love journey back to 1963. While Mr Chinyere first laid his eyes on his future wife in 1961, It took him two years to win her over as she was playing hard to get. 

With palpable joy in his voice, he told the Chronicle that through persistence and tireless efforts coupled with help from his friends he managed to convince his future wife that he was the man for her.

Finishing each other’s sentences, Mr and Mrs Chinyere said they kept putting their wedding on hold as they got caught up in raising their children and seeing them through school.

In the true African tradition of the extended family concept, they also put some of their orphaned nephews and nieces through school.

Mrs Chinyere sounded like a teenager in love during a telephone interview and repeatedly said she was elated that she finally had a wedding ring on her finger.

“The highlight of the day was when my sweetheart, the father of my children opened the veil and kissed me. At that moment, I felt young again,” she said animatedly.

To wrap up the celebration, Mrs Chinyere said, they will today spend a night at Pote Hill Hotel in Zvishavane for their honeymoon, courtesy of their family.

“It was always my desire to get married. I assumed that given my age, all hope was lost. When my children committed to financing our white wedding, I thought they were joking. I really didn’t believe that it could happen. We planned our wedding from May and as months progressed it slowly dawned on me that this was going to happen,” she said.

“The day of my wedding was like a dream. I couldn’t believe that I was finally wearing a wedding dress. I was excited and I couldn’t contain myself. As I’m speaking to you, I have a ring on my finger and what tops it all up is that I got married to the love of my life and the only man that I have ever loved.”

Excitement mounts in her voice as she nostalgically recounts how she met Mr Chinyere.

“I first met him in 1961 during a football tournament at Svita Primary School in Mberengwa. He was learning at a neighbouring school, Mwembe Primary School and was one of the footballers who were playing in the tournament,” she said.

She said she will never forget how Mr Chinyere appeared completely enamoured of her from the start.

Mrs Chinyere who was an A student and also the head girl said Mr Chinyere could not stop chatting with her.

“I ignored him at first. He made several attempts to befriend me, but I gave him a cold shoulder.

“He used to write letters and give them to my friend to pass on to me, but I would ignore them. He would send people to call me or sometimes he would follow me and request to talk to me, but I would run away. He pursued me for a year before I even agreed to befriend him. He later proposed love to me and I accepted. That was about two years after we had met at the soccer tournament,” she said, the warmth in her voice rising a notch.

With a little laugh, Mrs Chinyere recalled how she refused to let her lover touch her for a long time, even though they had “become an item”. 

“Coming from a Christian background I knew that any contact might lead to temptation and we might end up committing fornication. Sometimes I would meet him while walking with my sister or another elderly person and I would ignore him and act like I didn’t know him out of respect of the person I would be with,” she said.

She said Mr Chinyere was a gifted athlete and she loved to watch him play soccer. 

“We also had a lot in common as we were head boy and head girl at our respective schools and we were both doing well in our studies.”

Mrs Chinyere later transferred to Zezani Primary School, a boarding school in Beitbridge District where she completed her primary education. It meant she now had limited time to see her prince charming.

Despite being far from her partner, Mrs Chinyere said her heart beat only for her future husband.

Taking over the story, exuding even more excitement, Mr Chinyere said when his inamorata transferred from the district, they could only meet over the school holidays. They could not communicate through letters out of fear that they would be intercepted by school authorities.

Mr Chinyere said the love-light that made Mrs Chinyere the beacon of his existence gave him patience and he knew deep in his heart that Mrs Chinyere would officially become his woman someday.

He said they dated for seven years and got customarily married in 1970. 

“When I talk to my children and grandchildren, I explain to them how much we valued courtship and took time to know one another before getting married. I met my wife in 1961, it took one year for her to accept my friend request and then another year for us to start dating. We then dated for seven years. By the time I went to pay lobola for her I knew exactly what I was doing,” he said.

Mr Chinyere said he sometimes had to walk around the shops aimlessly with the hope of seeing his darling.

“Sometimes I would walk about 10 kilometres to the Lutheran church which Mrs Chinyere was attending. Whenever I saw her, all the weariness would vanish and I knew it was worth it.

“It took me several years of writing letters, some which she never replied, being rejected several times, walking long distances and begging friends to mediate for me in order to win this woman’s heart. I will never exchange her for even all the riches in the universe,” he said.

Mr Chinyere said he got customarily married to his wife when he was 27 years old and she was 20. He said they were blessed with 10 children but one passed on. Seven of their children are teachers, one is a doctor and the other is a businessman.

Mr Chinyere said he raised his children by working as a builder while his wife helped him by selling farm produce, including fruit.

Their marriage officer Reverend Muiti Sibanda from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe, who has been a marriage officer for 13 years said it was his first time to join together such as elderly couple, old enough to be his parents.

He said it was an eye-opening experience for him as he had to move out of his comfort zone and tailor-make a message for the elderly couple.

“It was the first time for me to officiate at a wedding of such an elderly couple. Normally I join together young couples or people who are getting into a union for the first time. I had to divert from how I usually operate as I couldn’t teach people that have 50-years’ experience in marriage what marriage is all about and what is expected of them. It was interesting as even the bridal team were elderly people,” he said.

Reverend Sibanda said they however held the marriage ceremony like any other as the bride walked down the aisle with her brother, the bride and groom exchanged vows, the veil was opened, they kissed and they put on rings.

He said the love journey of Mr and Mrs Chinyere was an important life lesson for many.

The couple has attributed the success of their marriage to God’s grace, humility and love for one another.

The elderly couple could not be outshined by young couples with their well decorated wedding set up. They had a three tier cake with three side pieces.

Their colour scheme was purple and grey. They took advantage of their local natural scenery to have a photoshoot next to a local dam. Community members and relatives came out in numbers to celebrate the significant milestone with the Chinyere family. — @DubeMatutu


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