Rhonda and Terry White look back on a 62-year romantic and pharmacy business partnership
When Rhonda Conn was smashed across the face with a golf club, she never imagined it would lead to a lifelong business and romantic partnership.
The 19-year-old Brisbane pharmacy student was out playing golf when she was approached by a 12-year-old boy who asked if he could have a swing.
“I handed him the club and before I could step back he smashed me in the face,” she said.
The impact took out four teeth.
A scar lingers on her face to this day.
The golf club president, terrified she would sue them into bankruptcy, asked one of his young handsome club members to talk her out of it.
The young man was Terry White, the 22-year-old owner of an unsuccessful chemist at Woody Point in Moreton Bay.
Mr White said he asked Ms Conn out on a date five times over the phone and was rejected five times.
“Finally in a state of exasperation I said, ‘Why won’t you go out with me’ and she said, ‘I don’t have any teeth’,” Mr White said.
“I said, ‘Well there’s the Boondall drive-in theatre down the road. We could go there and nobody will see you’.
“So that was how the romance started.”
They were married 12 months later.
While Mrs White was finishing her pharmacy degree, Mr White ran his small chemist, which he had opened in 1958.
Business was so slow, he spent many mornings out on the jetty tending to his crab pots in the hopes of catching lunch.
“It wasn’t a very successful business decision,” Mr White said.
“It’s what we call in the business a ‘dog site’ — and by that I mean it was surrounded by water.
“It was the exuberance of youth and also the advice of the pharmacist I had been indentured to for three years.
“A lovely man, but not a great businessperson.”
After graduating Mrs White started her own rival pharmacy in Clontarf, marking the beginning of a business competition between husband and wife.
Together they opened up one pharmacy after another until Mr White entered politics, leaving Mrs White to handle the business side.
When Mr White became Queensland Liberals leader he sensationally waged political war with Nationals Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
The feud caused a split between the Queensland Nationals and Liberals, who lost the next election by a wide margin.
“When it was obvious that the then government was corrupt, we had to do something about it in the Liberal Party,” Mr White said.
“We ran a campaign on it — it wasn’t the greatest campaign in the world — it was my first time go at leadership and we had no money.
“It was a pretty tough gig, but nevertheless it was the right decision to make at the time.”
When Mr White left politics he returned to the business world to start the TerryWhite Chemmart franchise in 1994 with his wife.
The franchise continued to spread to more than 500 branches.
Looking back on their romantic and business partnership, Mrs White said the secret to their success was setting well-defined boundaries.
“The secret is very clearly defined roles,” Mrs White said.
“If he stepped in my territory I would let him know, and if I stepped in his territory he would let me know.
“One of the things about family businesses is there needs to be clearly defined roles for everybody, exactly the same as we have in any business.”
The couple announced their retirement in September, but they continue to pay visits to the Moreton Bay region where it all began.
“We fell in love with Redcliffe a long time ago,” Mr White said.
“We had our early years of our children growing up here, and we feel there’s something special about the peninsula.”