James and Cecelia Marsh celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary on Christmas Day 2018.
They tied the knot in 1943, fitting it around James’s dangerous work as a ‘Bevin Boy’, working in Welsh coal mines to help the war effort.
The duo, still very much in love, credit communication, a large family and learning to work together for helping them maintain a loving relationship after nearly eight decades.
Today the couple live at Bupa Abbotsleigh Mews care home in Sidcup, with the staff making sure they’re still able to spend time together.
In addition, colleagues are planning a special Valentine’s Day meal to celebrate their milestone year together.
Cecelia said: “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.”
‘Bevin Boys’ were young men conscripted to go to work in the Welsh coal mines, and James would travel between London and Wales on his Ariel Red Hunter motorcycle.
The near-centenarians were both born in South London, first introduced by Cecelia’s youngest brother, Bill, who had made friends with James having lived close to one another.
Cecelia recalled: “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!”
Talking about the secrets behind maintaining a long and healthy relationship, Cecelia said: “We’ve always worked together with whatever we’ve done. We even used to ride a tandem bicycle!”
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.
“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 or send cards to one another now. 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 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.”
The couple have three children – James, Marion and Ann – as well as 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 they also used to enjoy puzzles. As a former seamstress, Cecelia would also keep busy with sewing, dressmaking and crochet, designing and making garmets including wedding dresses.