Sunday, 26 September 2021

Couple fall in love across floor of care home lounge

THE last two residents of a care home in Whitchurch have been rehomed together after falling

THE last two residents of a care home in Whitchurch have been rehomed together after falling in love at the age of 93.

Gordon Eaton and Marjory McKinven first struck up a relationship at Eastfield House two years ago and have been inseparable ever since.

Both had lived at the Eastfield Lane home for several years but didn’t get to know each other well until after Mr Eaton had been to hospital to have a tumour removed from his face.

When he returned, they started chatting regularly and romance  blossomed.

The couple, who have five previous marriages between them, were moved from Eastfield House on Monday as the home is closing for 18 months while it is refurbished.

The 95-year-olds are now living at the Chilterns End care home in Henley, which is run by the Orders of St John Care Trust and is due to move to a new purpose-built building at the redeveloped Townlands Hospital site.

Great-grandmother Mrs McKinven, née Cook, grew up in Datchet and has been married three times.

She first married when she was 21 and had three children, Glynis, Alan and Michael, before divorcing 30 years later.

She worked as a secretary for most of her life and moved to the Henley area several decades ago after taking a job with Beechams, now GSK, in Maidenhead.

She remained single for some time before remarrying at St Mary’s Church in Hurley but her husband died of a smoking-related illness about five years later.

A third marriage only lasted briefly as her husband died of complications from heart disease.

Before she moved to Eastfield House in 2010, she lived in a flat off Greys Road, Henley.

Mr Eaton grew up in Clapham and joined the Royal Air Force as an engineer in 1942, when he was 20.

He served on an RAF base in Cumbria for three years before being invalided due to ear problems.

He married shortly after enlisting as his wife had fallen pregnant with their son John, but the marriage didn’t last.

After the war, Mr Eaton worked as a mechanic servicing cars and later the commercial fleets of paper supplier Bowater and the Greater London Council.

The GLC made him redundant when he was 64 so he started an office cleaning firm with his new partner Margaret Pipe. The couple married in the Noughties but she died two years later.

In 2012 Mr Eaton went to live with his stepson Frank Pipe, who lives in Vicarage Road, Henley, but needed closer care so moved to Eastfield House.

When he underwent surgery in 2014, his face was slit all the way up his left cheek and a piece of flesh from his back was sewn into the area where the growth had been.

While sitting in the residents’ lounge at Eastfield House recuperating, Mr Eaton and Mrs McKinven realised they had feelings for each other.

He said: “She was sitting in the middle of the room looking out of the window and I was in a chair beside the window facing her.

“I took a look at her, she looked back at me and I then turned away because I didn’t want to embarrass her with my ugly face! I was always very shy with the ladies, although I think I’ve got better.

“Anyway, she suddenly got up out of her chair, walked to the seat next to me and said, ‘do you mind if I sit here?’ I said, ‘of course you can’ and we pretty much fell in love there.”

Mrs McKinven said: “I couldn’t explain how it happened — it just did. I remember hearing this racket in the corridor one day and someone said Gordon was back so I decided I should have a chat with him.

“Before we knew it we were sitting next to each other holding hands and Gordon said, ‘this is nice’ and then he gave me a kiss.”

The pair now pass their time playing puzzle games and doing quizzes and say they are looking forward to the organised activities at Chilterns End.

Mr Eaton said: “We like doing anything that keeps our brains active — I think that’s very important at this age. It has just been us at Eastfield House for the past few weeks, which has been strange, although it was nice having the place to ourselves. We went and ate together in the dining room like two people in a restaurant!”

When news of the home’s closure was announced in the spring, the couple feared they would be parted so they raised their concerns with Majesticare, the company which runs the home, and were promised that they would be kept together.

Mrs McKinven said: “I told Gordon, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to cope without you’. I couldn’t imagine us being apart after so long.

“The thought of being separated was dreadful. It made me quite ill with the stress so it made a huge difference when we knew we’d both be going to Chilterns End.

“When I say I’ve been married three times people are often shocked but it’s not like that — I’ve just been very unfortunate. I wish Gordon and I had met sooner.

“He is a very kind and thoughtful man who’ll do anything for others and always finds time to help.

“My daughter would always be quiet around Gordon and he started worrying that she didn’t like him.

“When I asked if she had any concerns, she said, ‘what made you ask that? I think he’s very nice and if you like him that’s the only thing that matters’.

“It shows it’s never too late to find someone. I worried at first that I was just a silly old woman trying to find another man but we gelled so well together.”

Mr Eaton said: “I wish I’d met Marjory years ago. She’s had a hard life at times and I think we’d have enjoyed a better life together. I can see us sailing off somewhere.

“She has so many good qualities — she’s sensible and very loving.”

Majesticare is to extend Eastfield House in order to increase the number of bedrooms from 27 to 45 as well as improving the disabled access.

The company says the work is needed because the home doesn’t meet modern care standards.

More News:

POLL: Have your say