Woman reunites with childhood sweetheart in Derbyshire after keeping his gift for 75 years

After the death of his dear wife a few years ago, an 81-year-old Derbyshire widower has found a second chance at love through the wonders of technology that traced back to his childhood sweetheart.

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 3:04 pm

But the journey was not all that smooth sailing for Tony Jackson, who lives in Dronfield, as he had lost touch with Gloria Loukes several times before fate finally brought them back together last year.

The former assistant executive engineer said following his late wife's passing, he never thought he would find a companion until Gloria reappeared in his life.

And their meeting was made even more special when Gloria told him she still kept a small glass heart he gifted her when they were both five years old after they played Mary and Joseph in a nativity play at Pomona Street School (now known as Porter Croft Primary School in Sharrow).

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Gloria (left) wearing the glass heart that was gifted by Tony (right) when they were five years old.

Tony, now a grandfather-of-six, said it all started in 2003, when a few girls in his class organised a reunion using a now-defunct Friends Reunited and met at the Hallam Tower Hotel, Sheffield.

He said: "For some reason, I cannot remember why I failed to attend the reunion. Shortly after, I contacted one of the reunion organisers, Gloria and I apologised for not attending.

"I asked if she and her husband would like to come and join me and my wife for Sunday lunch the next time they were in Sheffield.

"I had not seen or spoken to Gloria for well over 50 years. After our class sat the 11 plus examination, we all went separate ways.

The piece of jewellery that Gloria retains until today.

"Gloria completed a successful education and became a teacher in Sheffield. Later she moved down south and took a teaching vacancy in Biggin Hill, Kent.

"Here she changed her surname after she met and married Frank Turner. Gloria and her husband accepted our invitation and in 2004 came to our house for a Sunday lunch.

"There then followed another 16 years of no contact between us, during which time my life changed dramatically. In 2008 I developed Parkinson's. Fortunately, it progressed slowly but I was left alone when my wife died after 57 years of marriage.

"In August 2020, I was at my computer when, out of the blue, up popped the photo taken by Gloria's husband. I wondered if she was still alive and still living in Kent.

A picture taken during their Sunday lunch in 2004 by Gloria's late husband, Frank. Tony is pictured on the right with Gloria (centre) and his late wife, Jacqueline.

"I had retained her telephone number and tentatively rang it. The result was she was still living at the same address but her husband had died three years earlier.

"She had relations in Sheffield and I invited her to come and see me the next time she came up to Sheffield.

"This she did and we reminisced how at five-years-old we became childhood sweethearts when we played Mary and Joseph in a nativity play at Pomona Street School.

"At that time I gave her a small glass heart presumably to show my love for her. She had retained it for 75 years and brought it with her to show me.

Class of pupils at Pomona Street County School (now known as Porter Croft Primary School) around 1947 when the children were 8/9 years old. Tony Jackson is on the back row, 5th from left, and Gloria Loukes is on the front row, 7th from left. Submitted by Tony Jackson

"Well, the upshot was we became 80-year-old sweethearts!"

Just like Tony, 81-year-old Gloria also thought she would be left alone after her husband's passing.

The grandmother-of-one said: "I think he died at the same time around Tony's wife, Jacqueline. I thought I would be on my own for the rest of my life and that was it.

"I didn't think it would be anything else like that. It just feels nice to have someone, to be able to speak to a few times a day."

Asked why she decided to keep the gift after all these years, she said: "It's meaningful to me. I was only five or six at the time and I kept it because I didn't have any other jewellery.

"It's got a chip in it but there was something about it. I felt it was meaningful," she said.

She said she has always had Tony a special place in her heart, despite her wonderful marriage with her late husband.

"I must say I had a wonderful marriage and a wonderful husband. But if the little heart didn't mean anything to me, I would have given it away," she said.

She also has met Tony’s family, which she said has been lovely towards her.

"I have two children, I only got one grandchild – I’m very sad about that. I always wanted grandchildren and I have got only at the moment.

"I’ve met his daughter and met a couple of his grandchildren and that’s been nice and I talked to one on the phone and met one briefly. It’s quite nice to meet his family,” she said.

Despite being separated 200 miles away as Gloria still lives in Kent, she said both of them are planning to go on more holidays when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

"We will book in somewhere and see if we will be able to see my son and my grandson. He's met my daughter twice. She was very happy though I wasn't sure - you never are or that would be alright."

Tony agreed: “In spite of the coronavirus pandemic and the 200 miles that separate us, we have retained our relationship, see each other regularly and go on holiday together.”

He also enclosed a picture of a class of pupils at the school, which was taken about 1947 when the children were aged eight to nine years old.

"We are hoping to hear from anyone still alive who appears on the photo. It would be great to reconnect with them and reminisce the time we had together,” he said.