From strangers to life partners: this is a story of unwavering faith and dedication.

Jake, a boy from Holland who moved to Australia in 1957, and a Melbourne girl named Joan attended the Crusade Bible School in Adelaide in 1963, each praying to god that they might perhaps find ‘the one’ in their studies.

One day, Jake and Joan, who had just met a few weeks prior, joined friends for a meal at a Roadhouse after attending a church opening.

A curious lady approached the young pair at their table with many questions.

“How long have you been married?” she asked.

In some shock, the pair said they were not married.

The strange lady was not satisfied, persisting to ask, “How long have you been engaged then?”

Again, Jake and Joan, who had only just met, told the lady they weren’t engaged.

Still curious, the woman asked if the pair were at least courting.

This would be the very start of a happy and loving relationship that would go on for decades.

Jake and Joan van der Koogh recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on Thursday, December 28, 2023.

The pair have been inseparable after hitting it off at that Roadhouse.

Little did Joan know at the time that Jake had already convinced himself that she was the girl for him – he had prayed that very night for a sign from god to guide him.

“We certainly got that sign,” they laughed.

Two weeks after the pair graduated bible school in Adelaide, they were married.

Couple: The van der Kooghs tied the knot on December 28, 1963. Image supplied

The lovebirds made a home for themselves in the city of churches on Prospect Street.

Jake worked as a production controller while Joan had a government job.

Up until 1966, women employed by the government had their employment terminated once they had married under the ‘marriage bar’.

So Joan cared for the van der Koogh home and it wasn’t long before the pair welcomed their first child.

In 1964, the van der Kooghs started their family with a baby boy, David, soon came Jenny in 1967 and then Wayne in 1969.

Jake worked in various jobs before he landed a photography position, which he held for 34 years.

Joan and Jake were invited to join a church in Moe, and that is where they made their home and have lived for 49 years.

“The 5th of January just gone. We’ve been here for 49 years,” they said.

Jake, who established his photography business, had to start over from scratch when they moved to Moe.

“It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was very difficult,” Joan explained.

“We got a commission house, and we started from nothing when we came, so it was a tough time,” she said.

Jake walked the streets of Moe, going from door to door offering to take photographs of people in their homes. From there, he later did all sorts of photography for the community after opening a studio on Lloyd Street.

The pair found their strength in prayer, and through every rough patch, they knew to rely on their faith and on each other.

Having a great big family, the van der Kooghs now have 10 grandchildren, and last December, the couple welcomed their eighth great-grandchild.

Forever: The happy couple shared their secrets for a long, loving relationship. Image supplied

So what’s the van der Koogh’s secret to 60 years of marriage?

The pair said it came down to the following:

“Don’t try to change your partner – each person has their own personality and is a product of many things”;

“Different is not wrong – the earlier in the marriage that is learned the better,” and;

“Taking marriage vows seriously – to follow the words “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”

Having had their fair share of health issues, the pair stuck together through it all. Now residing at Latrobe Valley Village, the pair spend their days together like they have always.

“We are more in love now and are reaping the benefits of remaining together,” they said.

Celebrating the diamond anniversary with family and cake, the pair said they didn’t need any presents just simply “being together” was enough.