A beautiful family photo hangs upon the wall in Bill and Helen O’Reilly’s fourth floor suite in The Village of Taunton Mills. There must be 50 or more people in the photo, with Bill and Helen’s six children sitting with their spouses and a flock of beautiful grandchildren surrounding them; it looks like the picture of perfection.
Family is the most important aspect of life, it seems for Helen and Bill, and as they reflect on that photo and many others strategically placed around their suite, they smile.
“We really are proud,” Bill says.
Theirs is a legacy that spans more than seven decades and on a quiet May 15, Bill and Helen are preparing for an afternoon celebration in The Village’s Town Hall to mark their 75th Wedding Anniversary.
They reminisce back to the church picnic where they met, and Bill mentions a friend of Helen’s named Mary Hickey; Mary thought her brother, Frank, might be a good match for Helen but the only way Frank could get to the picnic was if Bill drove.
“I drove him out but then Helen picked me instead,” Bill says with a sparkle in his eye. The rest, as they say, is history, and 75 years of marriage is history well worth acknowledging. Helen suggests that marriage is not considered as sacred a bond today as it once was and that people may be inclined to quit on it too early. Nurturing a lifelong relationship and raising a family is not always easy, she admits, but if they are built upon a foundation of love and respect, then strong bonds will stay locked in time and space.
Bill and Helen’s daughter Colleen arrives as the conversation evolves, and she points out that of the six siblings, all have maintained deeply committed relationships, with 52 years being the greatest milestone.
“It’s a hard job, but Mom and Dad made it look so easy,” Colleen says. “They did it with grace and they are such an amazing example for their six kids, and their six kids are all still together.” This example spreads beyond to the grandchildren and Helen reiterates that if love and respect are at the core of family life and effort is made to create space for togetherness, then extended pride and happiness are attainable.
“Still to this day we have the O’Reilly family Christmas, and everybody comes,” Colleen points out. “There was always an event or a family picnic or something at the farm.”
“We’ve being doing it for years and there is always some reason to come together.”
And on this day, Bill and Helen’s Village family has come together in their honour. They have lived at Taunton Mills for nearly 15 years and they are well loved. The team has the hall perfectly decorated and with music softly playing in the background, younger team members look to the couple and think: “If I had a goal in life, it might be to love and be loved in such a way.”
It is an example that spreads far, indeed.