As the sun was setting on that fateful Christmas Eve in 1982, their eyes met across a toga party on Lucinda Beach.
Suesanne Newman was a fresh-faced 18-year-old not long out of Ingham High.
Abergowrie man John Botto was five years her senior.
Dressed in brilliant-white Roman clothing, the son of Italian-Australian migrants was about to meet the women he would spend the rest of his life with.
Sue was struggling to cope with the loss of her father.
John reached out to comfort her and the pair formed an unbreakable bond.
‘We met at a toga party,’ said Sue. ‘I was 18. I’d lost my dad a couple of years before around Christmas so it was a hard time for me.
‘We were really close.
‘I walked away from the group and was a bit teary. John noticed and came to see if I was okay.’
The pair felt an instant connection, but John had just come out of a relationship and was about to go on holiday, so Sue cooled his early advances.
‘I told him to go to Sydney and call me when he got back,’ she said. ‘He phoned while he was down there and then surprised me – just after my birthday in February.
‘I didn’t know he was in Ingham. I had a job at the newsagents and he walked in.
‘He said: ‘Come on – let’s go for lunch at the Hinchinbrook’.
‘After that we got together – we’ve been together ever since.’
They married at the Anglican Church in Ingham three years later – and are now celebrating their 35 anniversary.
John being Roman Catholic, the pair had two priests oversee the ceremony.
The devoted couple had two children and are now grandparents.
Adrian John Botto (32) studied at Abergowrie State School and Gilroy Santa Maria College before training as a boiler maker.
His younger sister Melissa Jade went to the same schools before studying a bachelor’s degree in psychological sciences and now works for the Queensland Government in Cairns.
The grandchildren, Nikita Grace (7) and Elena Anne (5), attend Ingham State School.
John celebrated another milestone this year – he turned 60.
The inseparable couple work together at St Teresa’s College, Abergowrie, where John works in maintenance and Sue is a support officer.
John is an old boy of the school. He has lived in Abergowrie for 50 years.
The couple have lived in the stunning Herbert Valley since they got married.
On his milestone wedding anniversary, John joked: ‘You get 15 years for murder’.
Staff at St Teresa’s put on a special Covid-compliant celebration for the couple’s anniversary on 18 May.
‘It was very unexpected,’ said Sue. ‘I got a bit teary. We’re pretty private people – but it was touching.’
Abergowrie farm worker Tony Maloney, the leprechaun pony, wrote this tribute for the couple:
A day in the life: Sing the John Botto Blues
On that day when they partied in toga
Before anyone heard about yoga
Jonhny’s eyes met with Sue’s ‘cross the beach
At Lucinda young love was in reach
And flutters buzzed up in John’s belly
He tried to reach out but felt silly
Then Cupid who flew over head
Soon strung up an arrow and said:
‘You’ll be lovers from now for all time’
Then he shot Sue while John sipped his wine
Thirty five years on when Johnny wakes
He thinks of that day and still shakes
John’s up with the sun every day
He heads off to work for his pay
While ‘Gowrie is shrouded in mist
And tucked in his ute there’s a list
Of the things he must do in one day
And for many years it’s been this way
Number 1: Clean the grime from the sills
Number 2: Get the mower for Phil
Number 3: Go and water the cows
Number 4: There’s earwigs in the showers
Number 5: Laying out the rat bait
Number 6: Lock on room 28
Number 7: Clear the leaves from the floor
Number 8: Fix the chapel’s new door
Number 9: Start the list left by Sue
That’s a day in the life – sing the John Botto Blues.