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Info-graphic: The photo that proves love really can last a lifetime

11:51 13 June 2013

Ron and Eileen Everest are celebrating their 70th Wedding Anniversary. Picture: Ian Burt

Ron and Eileen Everest are celebrating their 70th Wedding Anniversary. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2013

Two little children, captured in a grainy black and white photograph, pose rather uncomfortably in wedding attire, his trousers are a little too short and on his head is balanced a huge top hat, while she is all but swamped by her headdress and bouquet.

But turn the clock forward 87 years and the boy is now a 91-year-old grandfather, still with a supporting hand on the little girl who has been his wife for 70 years and sharing a love story that could melt even the hardest of hearts - a story of childhood friends, of lost and found, of being separated by continents and war and finally reunited and a happily ever after.

It sounds like the latest big budget movie script, but this is actually the real life of a couple from Beetley, near Dereham, who relived their extraordinary story yesterday as they celebrated their Platinum Wedding Anniversary.

Ron and Eileen Everest have known each other almost all their lives but their union was possibly destined even before they were born.

Their fathers served together in the First World War. Chief Petty Officers Thomas Everest and Colin Campbell met in the Royal Navy and as they both lived in Kent, they and their wives became firm friends.

First baby Ronald was born to Thomas and his wife Gertrude in August 1921 in a maternity hospital in Gillingham and seven months later Colin and his wife Kate gave birth to baby Eileen in the same labour ward.

For the next four years the two children played regularly together, Ron always protective of his younger playmate.

Then in 1926 a family photograph captured a moment that would eventually become known as their wedding rehearsal.

Our parents decided to dress us as a bride and groom for the Gillingham Carnival, said Mrs Everest. We were only four years old but I remember that day. Our mothers were both good with a needle so they made the costumes and we walked all round Gillingham in them. But that was the last time I saw Ron.

In fact the little boy in the tiny frock coat and top hat and the little girl in the miniature bridal gown would be separated for the rest of their childhood as Mrs Everests parents moved the family to Greenwich in London.

A decade later they moved back to Welling in Kent while Mr Everests family had settled in Gravesend after a stint in Scotland.

Nobody had telephones in their homes in those days, said Mrs Everest. But when I was 18 I started work and there was a telephone and I really wanted to ring someone but didnt know anyone else to call. I asked my mother and she suggested her friend Gertrude who ran a shop and post office. I rang her up and, of course, it was Rons mother. She came over to visit me, without Ron at first, and then he came later.

Her husband admitted he was initially nervous of courting the now beautiful young woman he had been reunited with, but from his naval barracks, having joined the Navy at 15, he started writing to her and plucked up the courage to ask her out.

I still have that letter, said Mrs Everest.

Soon after the couple got engaged but their wedding had to be put on hold when Mr Everest was sent to serve in the Far East in 1941 and ended up in the dangerous Icelandic convoys to Russia. He spent two years away from home, with just one letter every few weeks getting through to his sweetheart.

In the meantime she was getting in trouble with the War Office for refusing to work in a war factory making radar equipment.

They told me I might go to prison if I didnt take the job, she said. I was quite naughty in those days!

But he returned in June 1943 and within five days the wedding was arranged and the couple exchanged vows at St Johns Church in Welling.

A wedding report in the local Kent paper described her blue dress and bolero jacket with a spray of orchids, while another added, it ties together two families who have been friends for 25 years and forges a stronger bond between two fathers.

But Mrs Everest remembered: He had 50 in his pocket and holes in his shoes. Luckily I soon got pregnant and then I didnt have to go back to the factory.

Mr Everest, who was involved in the D-Day landings in June 1944 and then worked as an engineer, came out of the Navy in 1961 and the couple moved to Norfolk in 1986 to be near their only daughter Carol and her family.

It is quite an unusual story, especially these days, but we have got on well together most of the time, said Mrs Everest, as her husband gave his recipe for such a long and successful union. We promised to love, honour and obey - and I did all the obeying, he said.

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