Valentines Day celebration for Waterlooville couple marking five decades together

Five decades after they began dating, Jill and Ian Harding will be celebrating their 50-year relationship with a romantic meal for two on Valentine’s Day at Wellington Vale care home in Waterlooville, where they have both been living for the last three years.

The couple began dating in 1972 after meeting when Jill was a clinical teacher at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and a colleague invited her to meet some friends, including Ian, who were travelling up from Portsmouth.

Jill said: ‘I was so shy then that I initially said no but I changed my mind at the last minute and joined the group - we had a really fun time.

‘Ian offered me a lift home to the hospital accommodation to save me from getting the bus and said that I should get in contact if I ever found myself in Portsmouth.

‘We began writing letters to each other and still have the letters today.’

Ian added: ‘Eventually, I had a telephone line installed so that we could talk to each other regularly, and after six months of writing and talking I went back to Manchester for a week’s holiday and we spent a lot of time together.

‘I returned home with some of Jill’s furniture as I knew we would have a future together.’

Jill began working at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham and moved to Portsmouth.

The couple were married in October 1973 at Devonshire Avenue Baptist Church in Southsea and believe that the secret to a long and happy marriage is a sense of humour, similar interests and being tolerant of each other. Helen Dunning, home admissions advisor at Wellington Vale, said: ‘We will be pulling out all the stops on Valentine’s Day to ensure that Jill and Ian have a romantic evening.

‘Our chef is preparing a fantastic meal, with pate served in the shape of a heart as a starter, a main course of beef bourguignon, and cherry cheesecake for dessert, which will also be heart-shaped.

‘Jill and Ian will have heart balloons on their table and we know they will have a lovely evening together.

‘They are such a fantastic couple and we feel very privileged that they have chosen to live at Wellington Vale.’