Homemade love

Robert and Birgit Bateman have been giving each other handmade Valentine's gifts for 43 years now since their first Valentine's Day in 1972.

Robert and Birgit Bateman on their wedding day

Robert and Birgit Bateman on their wedding day

Within one week of meeting her, Robert Bateman says he knew he was in love with Birgit Freybe.

Over 43 years later, the two are happily married artists, living on Saltspring Island.

Robert and Birgit met in September, 1971 after Robert hired Birgit to teach with him at Lord Elgin High School, now Robert Bateman High School, in Burlington, Ontario.

“I fell in love with Bob’s thoughts more than anything; he has a really good way of conceptually explaining what has happened in an interesting way,” said Birgit, 68, from her and Robert’s studio on Saltspring Island. “It didn’t hurt that he was very good looking.”

Robert and Birgit worked every day together as art teachers, and they quickly fell in love.

For their first Valentine’s Day together in 1972, Robert and Birgit made a decision that would start a long-standing, romantic tradition.

“Right at the very beginning, we had made the decision because we are artists, that we do not believe in buying a Valentine’s gift,” said Birgit.

Instead, they express their love through handmade gifts.

These gifts are now on display at the Robert Bateman Centre in Victoria until Feb. 28.

“Mine have been things centred around one heart, usually with all kinds of little things connected to the heart,” said Robert, 84.

“At first they were your typical little valentines, and then they became a little more big, then they became objects,” said Birgit.

One year, Robert put a photo of the two of them at the Great Wall of China in a heart in the middle, then put various pictures of Birgit in circles around the heart.

“Each one represents something about her that I consider a big advantage for me,” said Robert.

He described some of them as Birgit being the perfect travel companion, being their environmental conscience, having a perceptive eye and getting dolled up.

Birgit’s gifts often involve a collage that represents their life over the last year. She includes elements such as brochures from their travels and her own drawings.

Robert and Birgit have always kept the gifts on display on their walls all year round. They also have books in which they glue the Valentine’s projects now, since they began to run out of wall space.

Although many of the gifts are personal and intimate, Birgit said they have never minded showing them off.

“We wear our hearts on our sleeves,” she said.

Robert added, “We’re both artists, and we’re both romantic, which is probably one of the reasons why we fell in love.”

The hardest part is not coming up with a new idea every year, but finding the time to do it in secret, said Birgit.

“Even right at this moment, we’re sitting together in the same studio. I see Bob over there at his phone, and he’s looking over back at me.”

Robert added he estimates they were about 25 feet apart during the interview.

“And that’s all the time, 24 hours a day,” said Birgit.

Although they will have been married for 40 years on August 1, Robert and Birgit’s love for each other is unfading and unmistakable.

“Even though she’s 68, she looks like a 17-year-old girl the way the light’s shining on her right now,” said Robert.

The Robert Bateman Centre is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $12.50 for adults, $8.50 for seniors and students, $6 for youth aged 8 to 18 and $25 for a family with two adults and two kids.

The centre is located at 470 Belleville St.

For more information, go online to batemancentre.org or phone 250-940-3630.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria’s economy is expected to bounce back fairly easily, according to a new report from BMO Capital Markets released April 15. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria in good position to bounce back post-pandemic, says BMO

City’s smaller size, lower COVID-19 caseload and diverse industry base bode well

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

A case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at David Cameron Elementary School. People may have been exposed on April 14 to 16. (Black Press Media file photo)
COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Colwood elementary school

Exposure at Esquimalt’s Ecole Victor-Brodeur also confirmed

According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate in Greater Victoria rose to 5.7 per cent in March 2021, an increase of 0.8 per cent compared to February 2021. But the local unemployment rate remains the among the lowest in Canada. (Black Press Media File)
Greater Victoria’s unemployment rate rises to 5.7 per cent

The increase marks a reversal from recent months, but local economy among the strongest in Canada

Three new flight exposures have been reported departing from or arriving at the Victoria International Airport between April 7 and 11. (File photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Three flight exposures reported at Victoria International Airport

One flight on April 7 and two on April 11 had confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

British Columbia’s provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Wildfire fanned by winds near Merritt prompts evacuation alert

BC Wildfire Service says the suspected human-caused blaze was fanned by winds

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
National fitness group condemns unlicensed Kelowna gym’s anti-vaccine policy

The Fitness Industry Council of Canada says Flow Academy is shining a negative light on the industry

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Most Read