A couple celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary just a few miles from the Suffolk farm where they met and the village church in which they said their vows on April 9, 1947.
Phil and Jill Mason are both now residents at The Depperhaugh nursing home, in Chickering Road, Hoxne, where manager Sarah Fox laid elaborate plans for their big day on Friday. <April 9>
Staff, led by Mrs Fox, were transformed into waiters for a Savoy-style afternoon tea, the fitting menu for which was devised by the home’s award-winning chef Trisha Stephens.
“Phil and Jill knew they were having afternoon tea but we kept plenty of surprises in store for them,” said Mrs Fox.
On Sunday <April 11>, the Rev Brin Singleton will include a thanksgiving prayer for their marriage in his service at Holy Trinity Church, in Stowupland where they wed.
Phil, now 97, met his future wife through a school friend, John Taylor, who lived at Park Farm, Stowupland.
Jill, now 94, lived at neighbouring Stowupland Hall, where her father was a well-known farmer; John Taylor was her cousin and she spent a lot of time at Park Farm.
Phil would go to the farm every Saturday for tennis parties and sing-songs around the piano and on one of his visits he met Jill.
When asked at their anniversary meal by BBC Radio Suffolk reporter Matt Marvel how they met, Phil said: “I tore down the driveway to the farm on my trusty motorbike, as I was late for my date; Jill’s father shouted at me as I got off my bike and said, ‘What are your intentions towards my daughter?’ I said, ‘I’m going to ask her to marry me.. is that all right’?”
Jill said that they were great friends before they dated and that held them in good stead for a happy and long marriage.
Daughters Nicky and Jackie and their brother Tim told Matt what an amazing childhood and upbringing they had had, and that they felt so privileged to have such wonderful loving parents.
When asked if he could go back and do it all again, what would be the one thing that he would like to do most, Phil replied: “Ask my wife to marry me again.”
In 1939, at the age of 17, Phil voluntarily signed up to join the Navy and travelled around the world on three different ships, HMS Valiant, HMS Malaya and HMS Queen; he spent up to 18 months away from home at a time, visiting Australia, Sri-Lanka and South Africa.
Phil and Jill stayed in touch and on April 9 1947, they were wed at Stowupland Church and had their reception at Park Farm.
The farm is still in the family, being run by Phil and Jill’s son and grandson; Park Farm is still the centre for many family occasions including Phil and Jill's Golden Wedding celebration in 1997 surrounded by family and friends.
Phil and Jill began their married life in Writtle, Essex while Phil was working for the family firm of Mason’s Motor Factors.
Their son Timothy was born there followed by their daughter Jacqueline; when Phil began working at the Ipswich branch Phil and Jill moved to Felixstowe in 1960. Another daughter, Nicky was born to everyone’s surprise in 1970.
“Their home was filled with laughter, good food and especially my mother’s roast lunches, which were legendary to all who were lucky enough to have them. My parents always said that they were friends first which helped them to be partners for their life together,” said daughter Nicky Kelly.
The couple are now proud to have eight grandchildren and at the last count, 10 great grandchildren! They are never happier than being surrounded by their loving family.
Phil and Jill moved to Halesworth 20 years ago and had many happy years there with Phil out shopping every day with his little dog Barney.
In March, Phil and Jill moved into The Depperhaugh. Mrs Kelly said: “They feel truly blessed to have had such a happy 74 years together and our family all agree that they are blessed to have had such wonderful parents/grandparents/great grandparents who fill them with inspiration and love every day.”
Author: Stephen Pullinger