Family tragedy has led to diamond couple Geoff and June Green stepping into the breach to bring up their teenage grandson – as they approach their 60th wedding anniversary.
Geoff, aged 83, and his 79-year-old wife are now contending with school runs and endless computer games as they step into the role of parents to 14-year-old Geoffrey Smith.
The couple, who were teenage sweethearts and will celebrate their diamond wedding on March 21, were rocked by a terrible year in 2011, when two of their three children died.
In February 2011, they took young Geoffrey into their home in Summer Street, Kingswinford, because of the long-term illness of his mother, their daughter, Jacqueline.
Just a month earlier, their other daughter, Angela, who lived in Spain, died at the age of 47 from peritonitis.
Jacqueline, a single mum, of Park Street, Kingswinford, then died in December 2011, aged 53.
“It was a dreadful time for us,” said June, who is treasurer of the Good Companions Club in High Street, Kingswinford, where she and Geoff go for weekly Thursday social afternoons with other pensioners.
“But, when Jacqueline was so ill, we took our grandson in because we wanted to keep him with us – we didn’t want him to be fostered out.
“Our lives have been turned upside down but he’s a good lad really and well behaved.
“He doesn’t play loud music but he likes all those computer games.”
And Geoffrey is full of admiration for his grandparents, saying: “It’s like a normal family life with them and I love them both to bits.
“I think they are very lucky to be this old and still together after 60 years married.”
June added: “Geoff and I work as a team – he drives us to places, like if we have to pick Geoffrey up from Summerhill School after his weekly day at Halesowen College, and sometimes I’ll go on the bus back from somewhere with our grandson.
“It’s been a good while since we were looking after a teenager – but we’re learning all the time.
“It will either kill us or keep us young.”
Geoff, a retired carpenter at Hickman’s builders in Brockmoor, Brierley Hill, and June met when she was 15 and he was 18 while they were out with friends in the George VI Park, Kingswinford. He was living at the famous Crooked House pub in Himley, which his father, Samuel, kept for 25 years.
After their wedding at St Michael’s Church, Himley, they returned to the Crooked House – which was in those days still lit by oil lamps – for a reception, with a cake made from “begged and borrowed” sugar, as there was still post-war rationing.
June could not afford a posh wedding dress so wore a fawn suit with a pale blue hat on her wedding day.
She recalls that her father had difficulty doing up his tie so said: “I’ll put a muffler on to cover it.”
As post war rationing was still a fact of life for British families, the buffet was rustled up with whatever her mother could find.
The couple, who have a son, Anthony, aged 52, and a total of five grandchildren, have lived in Summer Street, next door to the house where June was born and raised, for the last 50 years.
They plan to celebrate their diamond anniversary with a break in Eastbourne, while Anthony, aged 52, of Blenheim Road, Crestwood Park, Kingswinford, looks after Geoffrey.
Anthony said: “My parents are incredible taking on a teenager at their age. They’re amazing.” Geoff was born in Quarry Bank and in the bygone days when he and his family lived at the landmark pub they all had to go outside to get water.
At one stage, his father feared the watering hole was going to be condemned because of subsidence, so he bought a house in Collis Street, Amblecote.
The pub was not condemned in the end so Geoff and June moved into the Collis Street house.
The couple later moved to Windsor Grove, Wordsley, before ending up in their current home.
The couple have been attending the Good Companions Club for over 60s in Kingswinford – which Geoff’s mum used to go to – for the last 12 years.
June took over as treasurer eight years ago.