They lived just a few doors apart but met only after they were separately invited to the same wedding. Gerald and Betty began courting and then tied the knot themselves on June 27, 1959.
David said: “Their 61st year of marriage was a challenging one, the most challenging yet. With the Covid pandemic in full swing, it was very hard for them to socialise like they used to and they very much missed seeing their family and visiting the coffee shops and garden centres around Worthing that they loved. This no doubt had a toll on their wellbeing.”
In September, Gerald received the worst possible news, the cancer he had so bravely fought had returned after three years and was more aggressive.
Betty was by his side until the end, caring for him and loving him until he passed peacefully on December 15, aged 87, with David and sister Jane by his side.
Gerald was cared for at home in Princess Avenue by his family, with support from St Barnabas House hospice.
David said: “To be at home was important to him, as they had lived there all their married life and he didn’t want to be apart from his family.
“He was a wonderful kind and loving man, his values were second to none, he cared more about others than himself and always looked for opportunities to make others happy.”
Gerald was born in Lyndhurst Road in 1933, the son of Ruth and Fred Rambridge and brother to Bob, Don, Reg and George. Apart from a brief spell during the war and just after he left school, he lived in Worthing all of his life.
He had a varied working life, starting out as a mechanic working on cars and motorbikes, before working with estate agent Jordan and Cook as a removals estimator. Gerald finished his working life at the Inland Revenue in Durrington, where he made many friends.
David said: “He loved his war films, tanks, jigsaws and tinkering with his car and in the garden, but more than anything he loved spending time with his family.”
After Gerald passed away, Betty was lost, having spent all their life together.
David explained: “The shock of him no longer being there was too much to bare. Despite having her family by her side, she found the grief too much to take. Losing your life partner is something we all dread but after 61 years of marriage it must be absolutely heartbreaking.”
Betty went to stay with her David, Natalie and their two children, and took great comfort in being with them.
David said: “She spent a quiet Christmas, new year and 88th birthday reflecting on what had been a wonderful life with her husband. She felt safe with her family but we all could tell that the spark and light had disappeared from her life.”
Betty passed away suddenly but peacefully January 4, just 19 days after Gerald. She always said ‘we are going together’ and the thought of not being with Gerald was too much, David said.
“She had a broken heart and there was just no healing that. All the family knew that she wanted to be with Gerald and as painful as it was losing them both, they knew that it’s what they would both would have wanted.”
Betty was born in Clifton Road in 1932 to Nellie and John Hills, sister to Joan, Peter and Janis. She spent some of her younger years in Portslade but in the early 1950s, both she and Gerald were living in Cotswold Road, just a few doors away from each other.
They met at the wedding of Betty’s cousin June and after they were married themselves, they spent the rest of their life in Princess Avenue, Worthing. They raised three children, with Mark born in 1960, Jane in 1962 and David in 1974.
David said: “She loved doing her tapestries and these are now proudly with new owners in the family. She will be so happy to know they will be viewed for many years to come.
“She also loved to dance and sing, especially with her grandchildren. She was a happy person who would always make you feel at home and comfortable in her presence.
“The world and Worthing are definitely worse off without them. I am so proud of Mum and Dad, they were an inspiration to us all and an example of how love can stand the test of time and that it never leaves us, even in death.
“It’s a painful time for us to contemplate life without them but their memories and good deeds will live on in others for many years to come. To all that knew them, raise a glass to them tonight.”