IT WAS a family reunion of near-epic proportions when a Barnham couple celebrated 60 years of marriage.
Jan and Lucy Van Driel celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary at Bailiffs Court, in Climping.
And the milestone proved to be somewhat of a military operation, with 45 family members, from across four generations and two countries, united to mark the occasion – including their seven children and spouses as well as 15 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Two of Jan’s sisters, Heilgje and Johanna travelled from Holland to attend the party and only relations in Bratislava, Hawaii and Australia were unable to attend.
Getting such a large family together, for one occasion, could be tricky.
However, Jan, 88, said: “To have seven children, 16 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren is a gift from God. This tea party has been a great surprise.”
Jan and wife Lucy, 82, came over from Holland in May, 1955 intending to stay in England only for a year.
They worked on a dairy farm in Storrington and ended up staying in Sussex for the next 59 years.
In 1961 they became tenants of Choller House Farm in Walberton, running an 80–head Friesian dairy herd for 25 years until taking on a farm in Oving with their son Jack, until Jan retired in 1991.
Jan and Lucy both have a strong Christian faith and have attended the Baptist Church in Walberton for 53 years, with the couple also holding a light lunch at the church to mark the special occasion.
Two of their sons, Hugo and Jan, are church leaders at Yapton Free Church and Bognor Vineyard Church.
Their oldest daughter Christine is a nurse.
Daughters Johanna and Henni are both involved in farming as is their son Jack while their daughter Elizabeth has been in the educational field. Several of the seven children moved abroad, but all have now returned to England and their four daughters and three sons live within a 15-mile radius of the Van Driel home in Barnham.
In their retirement years the couple have kept busy by helping their children and the church, and doing the gardening.
The couple have lived in Barnham for the past 28 years. They celebrated their anniversary on May 5.