‘She’s missed every minute of every day’

John Skelton, of Hemel Hempstead, has written a book about his life with with wife Peggy
John Skelton, of Hemel Hempstead, has written a book about his life with with wife Peggy

First-time author John Skelton has laid his life bare in his memoirs at the grand age of 90.

Peggy and John – A Wonderful Life will hit book shelves later this month and publishers have even hinted that it could one day become a movie.

John Skelton, of Hemel Hempstead, has written a book about his life with with wife Peggy in Hemel Hempstead PNL-150902-204521009

John Skelton, of Hemel Hempstead, has written a book about his life with with wife Peggy in Hemel Hempstead PNL-150902-204521009

The 20th century love story is a tribute to John’s late wife Peggy, who passed away four years ago, after 66 years of happy marriage.

“She is missed every minute of every day by me,” said John.

He won the, at first reluctant, Peggy’s heart by making her laugh and teaching her how to ballroom dance.

“When people said ‘why did you marry him?’ she said, ‘first of all he made me laugh, he has a great heart and he is a very good dancer’,” said John.

The pair met while working at the same accounts office and became closer when the Blitz saw them evacuated to their managing director’s home for a week.

The couple set up home in Hemel Hempstead in 1947 and John, who will celebrate his 91st birthday in April, was chairman of Hemel Hempstead Football Club and was heavily involved in the organisation of the town’s carnival.

During the Second World War, John served in the Navy when he was posted at a secret radar station in Iceland and was also part of the Malta Convoys. During this time Peggy wrote to him every day.

The leading seaman gave up the opportunity to become a naval officer so that he could get married at the tender age of 20.

After settling in Hemel Hempstead, John started a greengrocers businesses - at first selling door-to-door from the back of his van before taking over a shop in Hobbs Hill Road in 1955.

John said: “The shop did very well but at the advent of the new town making progress, of course smaller shops were hit hard.”

To boost his income, John started debt collecting in the evenings and when he wrote to the company’s financial director offering some business advice he was given a head office job in Glasgow.

This took the couple, who had four children – Martin, Roland, Lesley and Jackie – away from Hemel Hempstead for some time but they returned to the town in 1987.Later in life, they retired to Elizabeth House in Highfield.

John said: “When we were moving from Glasgow back down the decision was taken to burn the letters Peggy had written to me when I was in the Navy, because she said the children would only find them and laugh at them.

“We burnt them and didn’t even save one. That is one of the biggest regrets of my life. She wrote every day.”

However, it was happy times for the couple who spent much of their new found free time travelling around the world and would enjoy three months of the year living in Spain.

The book, which includes 110 pictures, also tells of John’s childhood including times when a lack of money meant Christmas ‘was not thought of’ and his recent New Zealand reunion with the 22 grandchildren and great-grandchildren of his aunt who died in 1933.

John, who is excited but anxious about the release of his book on February 26, told his life story to a dictaphone, which was then typed up by Jackie Driscol and her mother before being sent to publishers.

He said the book is: “In order that people will understand what a very special person Peggy was.

“She never thought of herself, she was always thinking of her children and her family and other people around her. She was a one-off – a very, very special person.”

John will be signing copies of his book at Asda in Hillfield Road, Hemel Hempstead on Thursday, February 19 from 10.30am. You can also pre-order the book by searching for it on Amazon.