Celia (67) and Stan (67) met at YMCA Maidstone in 1973 at a Christian discussion group. Celia, who was teaching in a village near Maidstone YMCA, joined the charity with one of her colleagues to play netball.
Thinking back to their first encounter, Celia said: “I remember being struck by his dark hair, which is now virtually all gone, and he wore a white Aran type jumper.
“Our first date, although I didn’t realise it was a date at the time, was a coach outing to an ice rink organised by Stan for YMCA Maidstone. He sat next to me and my teaching friend, who was going with her daughter, ragging me rotten.”
Love wasn’t immediately on the cards for Stan and Celia, but through their continuous involvement with their local YMCA, their ways always led back to each other.
Celia said:”We are very different in many ways, temperament and background, and we split up in autumn 1974 for several months.
“In 1975 we were both at a YMCA Easter Young Members Conference, in Wales, but each of us went around with other people. I realised then that he was the one for me. I missed him and his sense of humour terribly.
“After the conference, I stayed on in my shared rented house for a few more days, instead of going home, and we talked. I’m not sure there was a proposal as such, but rather an ultimatum of ‘now or never’. Once engaged, we took several trips out on his motorbike in the snow to various antique shops to find an old ring. Shopkeepers thought it was romantic and we were often spoilt with hot drinks when we got to the shops.”
After Stan and Celia found a “lovely Edwardian ring”, the couple had only four months to plan their wedding as Stan had been accepted at YMCA College, in Walthamstow, to train as a youth worker.
Celia said: “We didn’t have much time to plan but, luckily, I was a member of a Baptist Church so no queues there. We married on 9 August 1975 at the age of 26 years old. We had a marquee in the garden for our reception and there was no evening disco in those days, so we left at 5pm for a fortnight’s honeymoon in the Lake District.”
After two years of training, Stan worked for five years in Abertridwr YMCA in the Welsh mining valleys and three years at Taunton YMCA in Somerset.
Celia said: “We have been married now for more than 40 years and despite ups and downs we are as happy as we have ever been together.
“We have faced challenging times but I think the stress and threat to both of us did help to bring us closer.
“I had four miscarriages and so had our two children quite late. They have both left home and are now 30 and 26 years old. We don’t have any grandchildren yet, but Stan is secretly willing them to hurry up and have children before he is too ancient to play football with them.”
“I think divorce is too easy today and many couples go into marriage thinking there is a way out if things go badly. We have had many difficulties in our marriage, but I think our Christian faith, parents and going into it for life made a difference to our attitude.
“Our Ruby Wedding in 2015 was a proud moment. We both looked at each other saying ’how did we manage that long?’”
Almost 44 years after Stan and Celia first met at YMCA Maidstone, they are still in touch with former friends and colleagues from the YMCA Movement. The couple is part of Y’s Retired, a group of former YMCA workers and volunteers who regularly meet for reunions.