A Penrith couple will celebrate their 80th wedding anniversary on Friday — an anniversary reached by only a handful of couples around the world.
Charles Higgs, aged 101, and his 99-year-old wife Edith — both live at Croft Avenue residential home and will reach their oak wedding anniversary having married on 30th October, 1940.
The anniversary is a rare achievement with only a small number of couples around the world listed.
Making it even more unique is that due to ill-health in his 30s Charles was warned by doctors he would not live a long life.
This was a warning that prompted the East End, London, couple’s move to Penrith for “fresh air”, which certainly seems to have worked.
The couple first met when Charles was aged 20 and Edith 18. World War II began and Charles joined the Royal Engineers.
During this terrifying time they decided to get married and due to Charles training in Scotland they married in Elgin.
Following the wedding Charles was sent to France where he was involved in the Dunkirk evacuation and listed as missing for a month in 1940 but he and a band of soldiers eventually returned on a ship from Spain.
The docking area which had been their home was severely bombed, scattering families further from central London.
As the war dragged on, they expected their first child but that too brought great sadness with the stillbirth of their first son.
As the war ended their son Stuart was born in 1946 followed by daughter Diane 1951.
Charles worked in the building trade and the family lived in Wimbledon before moving to Middlesex where he set up his own building and decorating business.
It was in his 30s that Charles became seriously ill and had major surgery. They were advised he may not live a long life and perhaps a quiet life in the fresh air of the country was the best doctors could suggest.
Edith’s younger brother, Eric Wooff, taught mathematics at Appleby Grammar School and they had holidayed in the Lake District and decided that would be their new home, moving to Penrith in 1960.
Along with the fresh Cumbrian air Charles’ belief in fresh home grown food supplemented by good local food, with Edith carefully cooking the limited food he could eat with Crohn’s Disease, was to be part of their survival and long life. He is now the longest known survivor of Crohn’s disease in the UK.
Edith worked as manageress of the canteen at BBC Skelton and later at St Catherine’s Catholic School in Penrith.
Charles was one of the original members of Penrith Ambulance Service, which was based at Myers Lane, before becoming a joiner for Eden District Council until his retirement in 1980.
Their son joined the air force and married Anne, also from Penrith, while their daughter Diane became a doctor and moved to Australia — returning to the UK four years ago. Charles and Edith now have two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
The couple were active members of the community — both were founding members of Penrith’s Queen Elizabeth Grammar School’s parent association, Edith is a former chairman of Penrith Age Concern holiday club and Charles a member of the Organ Society for many years.
Edith was a member of the Methodist Church in Penrith and later in Stainton where she helped with fundraising and social activities into her 90s.
The couple lived in Lowther Street throughout their time in Penrith where they were supported by Beacon Care and Cumbria Quality Care, moving to Croft Avenue only earlier this year.
Speaking about her parents’ marriage Diane said: “How do a couple stay together for 80 years? Marry young, weather the storms of life together, live on home grown, well cooked food. Neither smoked and alcohol was only for times of celebration.
“Face life as it is with all its challenges and find ways to cope — together. Keep your independence. Struggle and overcome adversity.
“Well, that’s how Charles and Edith have done it in their 80 years of living and loving.”