A widowed pair who had 10 children between them when they met by chance are celebrating 40 years together.
Albert and Gwen White, aged 82 and 80, each experienced the devastation of the untimely death of a spouse, and both faced the prospect of bringing up a houseful of children alone before a chance meeting in 1973 changed their lives.
London lad Albert, who lost his first wife to a brain tumour, decided to move with his band of five sons and daughters to Thumpers in Hemel Hempstead’s Highfield to be nearer other family members.
But it was not until three and a half years after he was widowed that his offspring became friendly with Gwen’s children – who were all of similar ages and in the same classes at school – and the heartbroken pair realised how much they had in common. They even lived in the same road.
Former posthouse worker Gwen, whose first husband had died suddenly of coronary thrombosis five years earlier, recalled meeting her future love for the first time when their two youngest sons – both named Andrew – played together. She said: “I came away thinking, he was a bit of all right.
“But neither of us had been intent on getting married again – I thought there was no way with my five children, and Albert was the same. I think it must have been fate. Sometimes life does make you wonder how these things happen.”
Less than a year later, on February 9, 1974, the couple were married and moved in together – with their 10 children and Albert’s dog. “It was absolute chaos,” Gwen smiled, “but there was an awful lot of patience and understanding from the children.”
Albert, who has worked as an army chef, lorry driver and decorator, said: “When my first wife died, there was nothing for me – just my kids. Gwen and I, we were both working around our children.
“She is an amazing woman. You’ll never find another lady like her. We became one big family – I love her, and we both feel the same way.”
The happy couple later spent nine years in Cornwall, but have lived in their beloved Grovehill apartment since 1993 – and the collection of family photo frames adorning the walls and mantelpiece continues to expand.
They now boast 34 grandchildren aged 13 to 39, and 36 great grandchildren with a further two expected this year. They never forget a birthday – although they have given up on present-buying at the family’s request – and have, according to Gwen, done more than their fair share of babysitting.
The second time around sweethearts celebrated their ruby wedding anniversary at Highfield Community Centre on Sunday with almost the entire family. Gwen’s daughter Jayne Canvin said: “They had such a wonderful evening. Their story is such a special one and we all have the privilege of being their children.
“I want everyone to know what an amazingly inspiring couple they are, but as individuals they are just as amazing.”
Gwen added: “We have experienced health problems and other sadnesses over the years, but because of us both losing our first partners, our values are the same. It makes us appreciate things that much more. We are very, very lucky.”