For a retired person to spend 12 hours a day with their spouse is not uncommon. But for Ron Cardinal, doing so brings new definition to the word ‘commitment’.
‘I usually visit Jean twice a day since she moved here two-and-a-half years ago’, says 74-year-old Ron, sat beside his wife, 72, at Gracewells care home in Fareham.
‘Jean was a very fit and healthy lady and she always said that the last thing she would want is to end up in a care home, but the way she’s accepted this is incredible.’
Jean has been told time and time again that she is lucky to be alive after she fell victim to two brain aneurysms in 2015.
‘The doctors originally told me that Jean wouldn’t survive because the aneurysms were so severe,’ Ron explains.
‘I met every week with the neurologist, but I hated the meetings because I knew that they were going to say every time that my wife was dying and that it would be a miracle if she survived.’
Despite doctors’ predictions, Jean – nicknamed ‘The Miracle Lady’ at hospital – and Ron were able to celebrate their 55th wedding with a small party at Gracewells on April 27.
The emerald couple met in 1960, through their social circle which centred on one of the most popular spots for local bikers at the time, the Harlequin Café in Fareham.
‘My two buddies Peter and Tony said that they had met two lovely ladies and invited me to go off and meet them in Elson, where Jean lived,’ Ron recalls.
‘I saw Jean and her friend Valerie, and I took a liking to Jean. But to my disappointment, Tony got Jean on the back of his scooter and Peter went with Val. I had to follow up behind them feeling a bit sorry for myself.’
Although he admits that he initially felt depressed, Ron says that he only had to wait a matter of weeks to woo Jean.
‘We were at the Harlequin Café, and I was chatting a lot to Jean while Tony was playing cards and ignoring Jean. I reminded Tony that Jean had to be back by 7pm, and he got a bit annoyed about me talking to her, but I saw it as my opportunity.’
Ron says that Jean ‘jumped at the idea’ of being given a lift home by him: ‘From that point onwards, we’ve been together.
‘We would go to the café, play cards, have a Pepsi or a coffee or whatever while we decided where to ride.
‘We would often go down to the New Forest or across to Brighton. It’s just what bikers would do.’
When they weren’t on their scooters, a teenage Ron and Jean enjoyed exploring the countryside and going to dance halls - ‘not that we could dance’, as Ron claims.
‘I thought that she was a very kind, considerate and generous person,’ Ron smiles.
‘She had a lot of charm and she was a very gentle girl. That attracted me a lot to her.’
Ron and Jean married on a sunny Friday afternoon on April 27, 1962, at Fareham Register Office.
‘We had an amazing day, it’s a day you could never forget,’ says Ron. ‘She looked absolutely beautiful – everyone told me that she looked like a young Elizabeth Taylor!’
Ron went on to study restoration of classical architecture at the University of Portsmouth before working in many roles within the construction industry, while Jean remained a housewife and keen gardener for most of their married life.
They have two sons – Nigel, 54, and Paul, 50 – as well as three grandaughters and a great-granddaughter.
All seemed well as the couple entered into retirement, until Ron found Jean collapsed on the floor at their home in Bridgemary in January, 2015.
Having suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and a second inoperable aneurysm, Jean also found herself having to tackle a clostridium difficile infection, e. coli and as many as six bouts of pneumonia.
‘It was definitely a big thing to adjust to,’ Ron says.
‘The neurologist told me that my life would completely change and it has.’
His tone brightens: ‘It’s absolutely brilliant that we’ve made it to 55 years.
‘We could go on for another 20 seconds or 20 years, so we just leave it in the hands of the gods and try to do all of the right things.
‘You just don’t know how long we’ve got together – we hope we can make it to 60 years!’