Wednesday March 22, 2023 – Two people who were lovebirds as teenagers have finally tied the knot, six decades after their parents called off their engagement.
Despite going through a tortuous journey before their marriage, Len Allbrighton, 79, and Jeanette Steer, 78, say they are now happier than they have ever been.
The couple first met in 1963 when Len was 19 and Jeanette was 18.
They were serving as trainee nurses at St Mary’s Hospital in Newport on the Isle of Wight, UK and said they fell in love at first sight.
Within months of their meeting, Len asked her to marry him and Jeanette accepted his proposal.
He moved to Australia, planning to buy a plot of land and build a house for them to live in once they were married.
However, the age of consent at the time was 21, and Jeanette was three years too young.
Her mum and dad stopped their wedding and Len received a heartbreaking letter from her calling off the engagement while he was living far away.
In the coming 50 years, Len married a woman in Australia, had three children, divorced, and moved to Stevenage where he worked as a district nurse.
Jeanette, meanwhile, stayed on the Isle of Wight to also become a nurse, then got married to a naval officer and had two kids.
She was retired and still with her husband when Len decided to track down his old flame by travelling to Newport and looking up her address using the electoral roll in the local library.
He said: ‘I was daunted, not knowing what her reaction would be or if I would even see her.
‘I went on the off chance. It was not an easy place to find but I did.
‘I just hoped she was ok – I didn’t expect anything else.’
Len went to her garden fence and looked into her house. Jeanette – not recognising him 52 years older and sporting a beard asked who he was.
‘I nearly died when I realised it was him standing by my garden fence.
‘I was glad he looked me up. I thought of him a lot at the time.’
After talking to him, she sent her former flame away and told her husband when she was asked that he was a stranger asking for directions.
Two years later, Jeanette’s husband died from cancer, and she reached back out to Len using an address he’d included on a Christmas card he sent to her the year before.
In 2018, she agreed to move up to Stevenage to live with him, and last year Len once again got down on one knee and asked her to marry him.
Their wedding took place on February 11, 2023 with new matching rings and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren bearing witness.
Jeanette said: ‘Married life is fantastic – it couldn’t be better.
‘It’s nice to have someone who treats me with respect. I like doing everything and anything with Len.’
Her new husband said: ‘We fell in love again.
‘We read poems to each other and exchanged rings – I got emotional when reading mine.
‘I was overwhelmed with my love for her.’