95-year-olds share key to happy marriage as they celebrate their 75th Valentine's Day together

James and Cecilia Marsh with a picture of their wedding day in December 1943(Photo: SWNS Digital)

James and Cecelia Marsh know a thing about love and marriage, having tied the knot in December 1943.  And as they celebrate their 75th Valentine's Day together, they say the key to their long relationship has been 'communication'. 

The 95-year-olds were first introduced to each other when they were teenagers by Cecilia's youngest brother Bill.  He was friends with James, who lived close by in south London. 

They married on Christmas Day at the height of World War II despite James being away for most of that time working as a 'Bevin Boy' digging coal in the Welsh mines to support those fighting on the frontlines.  

In those days, mining was dangerous work and Cecelia knew she couldn't take their relationship for granted.

'I never thought James and I would still be together after all this time,' she said. 

'Especially after he was called up to the mines during the war – he had no option, he was going whether we liked it or not.' 

Thankfully, the war ended and the two were able to build a happy future together in south London, with James working for local hardware merchants Hawkins and Sons until his retirement in 1989, and Cecilia keeping herself busy as a seamstress who also made clothes for the family.  Later she joined him at the store, where she worked as the bookkeeper for 20 years. 

Despite all the decades that have passed by, their love for each other hasn't changed. 

'As a young man, he was very smart – it's something he's always been known for,' she says.

'Even after 75 years, he's still the same man I married and we're as in love today as we were on our wedding day.'

Reflecting on what's kept them together all these years, she thinks working together as a team to resolve any problems has played a big part. 

James and Cecilia on their wedding day on 25 December 1943(Photo: SWNS Digital)

'We've always worked together with whatever we've done. We even used to ride a tandem bicycle,' she said.

For James, it is the simple things that have made their marriage happy. 

'When we first met, I thought Cecelia had a lovely way about her,' he said. 

'After we were married we were sometime short on money, but we made a decent home because the kids were growing up.

'There's more to life than money – you don't need to make extravagant purchases. And it was nice to get home at the end of the day to a home-cooked meal.'

He added, 'Looking back at the old times, I remember we had to learn to work together to overcome any troubles we might have had.'

James and Cecilia on their tandem bike the year before they married(Photo: SWNS Digital)

Cecelia also remembers times being more frugal in their early years together when she limited credit card purchases to only one item at a time.

One of their enduring simple pleasures in life is their large family, with the couple having three children, seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren between them. 

Cecelia said: 'If you can see that your family is happy and content, then that makes you happy.

'People in our generation didn't ask a lot from life, we were happy with what we had.'

That principle of simple living continues to this day with the couple exchanging home-made Valentine's Day cards that they made with the help of staff at the Bupa Abbotsleigh Mews care home in Sidcup, south east London, where they live.

To help them celebrate such a momentous milestone, the care home was today hosting a special Valentine's Day meal for them. 

'We don't really celebrate Valentine's Day in a big way. We used to - flowers, chocolates, that kind of thing,' Cecelia said. 

Tracey Cheeseman, home manager at Bupa Abbotsleigh Mews, said: 'Jim and Ciss really are an inspirational couple – even after 75 years married, you can tell there's still a spark.

'While Jim's dementia means he receives specialist care in another wing of the home, we still make sure they spend time together.

'It's heart-warming to watch their relationship continue to grow even after all these years, and so we all wanted to do something special to mark the occasion.'