A couple with a combined age of 172 have found love again second time around after their friendship blossomed when grief brought them together.
Thomas Mensforth and Emily Stephenson had been friends in a wider group of pals who would enjoy nights out at Laygate Buffs club, but had lost touch around 15 years ago.
Now, the pair have started married life together after former Harton and Westoe pitman Thomas, 85, and Emily, who worked at Gerald Street Home carer before her retirement, exchanged vows at South Shields Registry Office.
Last summer, Thomas spotted the death announcement of her son Albert, 59, in the Gazette, and made contact with the funeral directors to pass on a card sending his sympathies.
But one of his granddaughters went a step further, putting the two in touch by phone.
Thomas, who has lived in South Shields all his life and has now moved to Primrose in Jarrow to live with Emily, said: “I phoned her up and went around to see her to give her my condolences and she’d not been out been out for years so I asked her out to Simonside Club’s karaoke night and we’ve been coming down since last August.
To have everyone together, we’re over the moon.Emily Mensforth
“It’s good companionship.
“Getting married has been smashing. “It’s the first time we’ve had both our families together. “It was just going to be the four of us, us two and our witnesses, but now everyone’s here.”
The wedding breakfast was held at the club, with a country and western singer entertaining friends and family before the older members of the crowd headed downstairs to watch that night’s karaoke turns.
Emily, whose first husband George died in 1983, added: “I wouldn’t go out, I was working all the time and worked different shifts and I hesitated when he first asked, whether I should go or not to be honest, but that’s how we got together and that’s our story.
“It’s lovely to be married.
“We love each other’s company.
“To have everyone together, we’re over the moon.”
The couple, who first met 50 years ago, do not have plans for a honeymoon - as they both have hospital appointments to keep.
John, whose first wife Dorothy died in 2014 aged 86, is dad to Christine, 63, Margaret Wardropper, 63, Elise Nicholas, 61, Thomas, 59, and Keith, 54.
Emily is mum to George, 67, John, 65, the late Malcolm, 54, and Albert and Margaret Abedzadeh, 55.
Margaret said: “We are all very happy that they have married and that my dad has found happiness again.
“Emily is lovely. I call her my wicked stepmother, but we’re very pleased to welcome her to the family.”