Devoted James and Cecelia Marsh are set to celebrate their 75th Valentine’s Day together as a married couple – at the age of 95.
The lovebirds were first introduced as teens by Cecelia’s youngest brother Bill, who befriended James when he lived close-by in south London in the early 1940s.
They tied the knot in December 1943, with James riding his beloved Ariel Red Hunter motorcycle back from his job as a ‘Bevin Boy’ in the Welsh mines to marry his sweetheart.
Today the couple live at Bupa Abbotsleigh Mews care home in Sidcup, South East London, where the staff make sure they’re still able to spend time together.
As they prepared for their 75th Valentine’s Day together, Cecilia put their lifelong love down to ‘communication’ and the fact they always ‘worked together’ to iron out any problems.
She added: “I never thought James and I would still be together after all this time.
“Especially after he was called up to the mines during the war – he had no option, he was going whether we liked it or not.
Cecelia said: “As a young man, he was very smart – it’s something he’s always been known for.
"Even after 75 years, he’s still the same man I married and we’re as in love today as we were on our wedding day.
“And because we were married on Christmas Day, it’s always been easy to remember the date.”
“We’ve always worked together with whatever we’ve done. We even used to ride a tandem bicycle.”
James and Cecelia, who celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary on Christmas Day 2018, also credit having a large family for maintaining a loving relationship after nearly eight decades.
Bupa are planning a special Valentine’s Day meal to celebrate their milestone year together.
Recounting the couple’s view on finances, Cecelia explained how they lived through a more frugal era and that they’d only every buy one item at a time on credit.
She added: “But that said, if we wanted to buy something, you didn’t mind going out and spending money, did you James!”
Quick as a flash, James retorted: “Yes, and now I’m skint!” with a twinkle in his eye – showing that even though dementia may be slowing him down, his wit is still as keen as ever.
As the duo fussed over one another, thoughts turned to the upcoming Valentine’s Day celebration.
Cecelia said: “We don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day in a big way. We used to – flowers, chocolates, that kind of thing.
“We have made home-made cards for each other this year though with help from the staff.”
In addition to helping the couple make cards, colleagues at the care home have also planted a rose bush in the grounds to commemorate the pair’s diamond anniversary.
Tracey Cheeseman, home manager at Bupa Abbotsleigh Mews, added: “Jim and Ciss really are an inspirational couple – even after 75 years married, you can tell there’s still a spark.
“While Jim’s dementia means he receives specialist care in another wing of the home, we still make sure they spend time together.
“It’s heart-warming to watch their relationship continue to grow even after all these years, and so we all wanted to do something special to mark the occasion.”
James, whose first job was at a local hardware and iron merchants, added: “When we first met, I thought Cecelia had a lovely way about her.
"After we were married we were sometime short on money, but we made a decent home because the kids were growing up.
“There’s more to life than money – you don’t need to make extravagant purchases. And it was nice to get home at the end of the day to a home-cooked meal.”
After the war, James returned to work with Hawkins and Sons – a local hardware merchants – and eventually ended up the general manager until he retired in 1989.
Cecelia was a trainee seamstress and as a result frequently made clothes for the family.
She would also keep busy with sewing, dressmaking and crocheting as well as designing and making wedding dresses.
Once their three children, James, Marion and Ann, were older she also worked at Peek Freans biscuit factory in Bermondsey.
In the 1960s, she moved to help James at Hawkins and Sons in south London, working as a bookkeeper for 20 years.
The pair have been retired since 1989. Until 2016, they used to accompany each other to the shops every day.
The couple have seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Cecelia said: “If you can see that your family is happy and content, then that makes you happy.
"People in our generation didn’t ask a lot from life, we were happy with what we had.”
James added: “Looking back at the old times, I remember we had to learn to work together to overcome any troubles we might have had.”
Now, the pair pass their time by chatting and eating meals together, while in days gone by the also used to enjoy puzzles.
‘Bevin Boys’ were men conscripted to work in the mines to provide coal to support the war effort after miners were sent off to fight on the frontlines.
With supplies dwindling James’s job was an engineer who worked on mechanical machinery, rather than spending his days at the coalface.
Nearly 48,000 ‘Bevin Boys’ performed vital and dangerous, but largely unrecognised service in coal mines during WWII.
They were named after Ernest Bevin, the Minister for Labour and National Service who hit upon the idea of replacing battle-bound miners with thousands of young men.
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