Every day is Valentine’s Day for loving care home couple Harold and Renée Gaze.
They say they’ve hardly ever had a cross word in all their years together – which is remarkable when you consider that Harold is 101 and Renée a sprightly 99.
The devoted pair, who live together in specially adapted rooms at the Westerham Place care home in Kent, have been inseparable since they met at a holiday camp back in 1938.
“We’ve never really made a big fuss about Valentine’s Day,” said Harold with a twinkle in his eye. “We try to make every day like Valentine’s Day.”
The couple have been at Westerham Place for the past three years, moving from their long-time home in Stanmore, north west London, after Harold hurt himself in a fall.
They had lived in the same house in Stanmore since 1945 – but say that now they have settled in at Westerham Place, they couldn’t be happier.
Daughter Jennifer said Westerham Place was distinctive in that it catered for married couples.
“We looked at lots of places,” she said, “but very few have rooms for two people. But we are really happy we found Westerham Place – it is a wonderful home for them.”
Harold and Renée still enjoy a full life at Westerham Place, one of six boutique care homes owned by Montreux Living.
Harold spends time every day playing light music, show tunes and hymns on the piano for the other residents. “He’s got a bit of a fan club,” says Renée.
They are also regularly visited by their three grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
“It’s nice, because everyone lives quite locally, so they can visit pretty often,” said retired school teacher Jennifer, who lives with her husband Derek Gravatt, a retired doctor, just down the road in Otford.
Harold spends much of his time listening to Classic FM on his radio, while Renée – who will be 100 in August – likes to read.
“We’ve had a wonderful, happy life together,” said Renée. “We’ve been very lucky to have always been comfortably off and have been able to do the things we enjoyed doing. And of course we’ve managed to stay healthy – we’ve hardly ever had to see a doctor!”
Claire Davis, registered manager at Westerham Place, said: “It’s wonderful for us to have Harold and Renée with us at Westerham Place.
“It was so important for them to be able to live together, and we are delighted to have been able to cater for their needs.
“I have to say that their unending love and devotion for each other is an inspiration to us all.”
Harold and Renée met just before the start of the Second World War at a Methodist holiday centre in Sidestrand, near Cromer in Norfolk.
It was love at first sight, and they were married less than two years later in March 1940. They celebrate an astonishing 75 years of wedded bliss on March 23 this year.
Renée was brought up in Northamptonshire, and then in Brixton, in South London, while Harold lived in Golders Green.
“We were married at Finchley Lane Baptist Church in Hendon,” said Renée. “I remember the church was packed with people and we had a lovely day.”
After the wedding the couple moved to different locations with Harold’s work.
Harold explained: “I wasn’t called up for the forces because of my job. I worked for building firm John Laing constructing airfields.
“We lived in lots of different places, including Tempsford in Bedfordshire and in Portsmouth, before we ended up in Cricklewood, north London towards the end of the war. We moved to Stanmore in late 1945.”
By now, the pair had their daughter, Jennifer, born in 1942, while Harold – the eldest of five children – continued to work in the construction industry until 1950, when there was a big change in his life.
“My father ran the family business – a drapery and haberdashery shop in Hampstead,” said Harold. “When he became too old to look after the shop, he asked me to take charge – which I did.”
“I ran the shop until I retired in 1980.”
Renée, meanwhile, looked after the home and also spent much time looking after her own elderly mother.
After his retirement, Harold became a keen golfer, playing three times a week, rain or shine, at his local municipal course in Stanmore.
And as an accomplished musician, he was also in demand at the local church as an organist.
He said: “Because I was retired, I was available during the week, so was often asked to play at funerals. I played at 146 in all!”
And what do they think has been the secret to their long and blissful life together?
“We just love each other really. Simple as that,” said Harold. “Always have.
“And we’ve never had an argument or a disagreement,” he added.
“Well almost never,” agreed Renée with a laugh.