At 89 and 94 respectively, Ken Brown and Joyce Hulks knew that moving into a care home would mark a new phase in their lives – however they did not count on finding love.
They separately moved into Corton House and initially did not know each other.
“He used to come down here near the lounge and we got talking, and we gradually got more friendly.” says Joyce, who moved into the home just over two years ago after beginning to feel lonely in her previous residence.
For Ken in particular, Corton House has been a place of new chapters; he recently renewed his faith with the support of our Chaplain Reverend Rhonwen Washford, who arranged for local Bishop The Right Reverend Malcolm Menin, to visit the home and confirm him.
Ken – whose varied working life included jobs as a shoe repairer, member of an RAF bomb disposal squad, semi-professional footballer, cocoa bean roaster, and local councillor – also found in Joyce a partner with whom he could mull over the existential questions of life:
“You need to talk your thoughts over with your partner. I keep saying to Joyce, every time you look up at the sky and you see something there, I think to myself, “Who created all this? Where did it come from?”
“I feel my faith is telling me there must be something else… and I thought, I should be confirmed because there’s something there, this didn’t just happen. I was happy to get confirmed – I don’t know why I really let it go all this long while – I just never got round to it!”
Joyce, who was born and brought up in Carshalton, Surrey, moved to St Albans once she married. Later, she worked with adults with learning disabilities. She enjoys the variety of activities and crafts on offer here – recently exhibiting a collection of dolls clothing and paintings she created earlier in life for other residents to enjoy (pictured below).
Art was always within Joyce somewhere - “I enjoyed doing them. I did ever so many. I’ve given most of them away now though. Though I’m glad they’ve gone to a good home, some with Ken’s family.”
The support of their families is clearly very important to the couple. Several relatives came for Ken’s recent Confirmation service, including Joyce’s brother and his wife, who sent a Bible to him.
Joyce’s family are “marvellous” and keep in touch via frequent phone calls, while Ken’s daughter regularly visits him, “sometimes twice, three times, four times a week – she’s lovely, I love her dearly.” Recently she gave Joyce a beautiful turquoise ring, which had belonged to her mother, Ken’s late wife Audrey. “My daughter had it when my wife died, and she thought it appropriate that Joyce should have it.”
Joyce agrees. “They’ve all accepted me. It’s really lovely.”
Now, Ken and Joyce like to take their meals together, as well as enjoying Joyce’s collection of 1940s music. “He comes to my room sometimes, and I put the tapes on and we listen to them.”
The two have no plans for marriage and all the paperwork and ceremony it entails – “People would come, they’d get bored to tears and we don’t want people to be bored, we want them to be happy. We want to be happy - so that’s what we’re doing! We are happy.”
As Ken’s daughter, Valerie, would agree – “My dad is a totally different man since coming to Corton House. He was lonely… now he is really happy and content.”