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

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

Lost dog reunited with family three months after going missing along Juan de Fuca trail

‘The poor thing was skin and bones,’ says one of the Sooke rescuers

Victoria family donates 878 falafel wraps to support Beirut blast victims

Wrap and Roll pulls in $20,500 during weekend fundraiser

Reimagined campaign continues to make Vancouver Island wishes come true

#UnWinedOutside allows participants to support Make-A-Wish Foundation, local businesses

Laid-off hotel workers begin hunger strike demanding job protection

Laid-off workers not sure what they’ll do when government support programs end

Police investigating string of break-ins at closed Saanich care home

Electronics, tools reported stolen from Mount Tolmie Hospital

B.C. records 30-50 new COVID-19 cases a day over weekend, no new deaths

Many of those testing positive were identified by contact tracing for being linked to other confirmed infections

Five B.C. First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

Rent-relief program becomes new front in fight between Liberals, opposition

Opposition trying to draw parallels between decision to have Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. run program and the WE controversy

Nanaimo woman will buy ‘supersonic’ hair dryer after $500,000 lotto win

Debra Allen won $500,000 in July 28 Lotto Max draw

Ottawa sets minimum unemployment rate at 13.1% for EI calculation

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July

Cougar euthanized after attacking little dog in Qualicum area

Owner freed pet by whacking big cat, but dog didn’t survive the attack

$45K in donations received after couple’s sudden death in Tulameen

Sarah MacDermid, 31, and Casey Bussiere, 37, died August long weekend

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Internet-famous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and more

Most Read