Former Worthing footballer celebrates 70th wedding anniversary

A popular Worthing footballer who nearly died in his 20s, when he was struck down with a mystery illness, has gone on to celebrate his 70th wedding anniversary.

Pat and Ron Wood on their 70th wedding anniversary. Photo by Derek Martin DM1941863a
Pat and Ron Wood on their 70th wedding anniversary. Photo by Derek Martin DM1941863a

Ron Wood had been Worthing Football Club’s top goal scorer for season after season since the Second World War when he was hit with heart problems.

He spent a year in hospital in 1953, finally being diagnosed with endocarditis, an infection in the heart, and then faced the devastating news he would never play football again.

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His wife Pat said: “He was top scorer every year until he had his dreadful illness, three years after we were married.

Pat and Ron Wood on their wedding day, April 23, 1949

“He was very lucky penicillin had just come in but there was damage. The doctor had to tell him he would never play football again.

“Belonging to the football club was wonderful. It was a lovely club. He was a popular player, always the top scorer.”

Ron’s style was described as energetic and bustling, either as centre forward or inside forward, and he made 12 appearances for Sussex.

Such was his popularity, the Ron Wood Appeal Fund was set up to help him and enough money was raised to give Ron and Pat the deposit to buy a general store in South Farm Road.

Pat and Ron in their South Farm Road shop

The couple come from long-standing Worthing families, the Woods and the Punters.

They met outside the post office at the top of Heene Road when Ron was 22 and Pat was 19. Ron, who was just out of the Royal Navy, was standing outside with his bicycle when Pat popped in to take some money out, and he was still there when she came out.

Pat said: “We talked and talked, I missed my bus. I used to love dancing but he was no good, so I had to quickly change to football.”

They were married at Broadwater Parish Church on April 23, 1949, and set up home in Centrecourt Road. They have lived in the same flat for 70 years, first renting and then buying it for £1,500.

Newspaper cuttings showing the Ron Wood Appeal

They kept the shop, Ron Wood Stores, for five years and gave it up because they wanted children. Their only child, daughter Nikki, was born in 1959.

Ron went into management with Seeboard and worked in Shoreham for 21 years.

Pat worked at Marks and Spencer in town for 28 years, then at Goring Hall Hospital for 11 years, and met Princess Margaret when she officially opened it on October 26, 1994. She retired at the age of 73.

They now have two granddaughters and four great-grandchildren.

Pat said: “We can’t complain about our brains but our bodies are worn out.”

Ron added: “We are still going strong at the moment.”

Ron, 93, and Pat, 90, celebrated their platinum wedding with an afternoon tea party at the Ardington Hotel.