Having faced cancer in the family four times and reached their 60th wedding anniversary, a Burnley couple has proved their marriage is as strong as diamond.
Norman and Maureen Sutcliffe, of Hodder Street, will toast six decades of marriage on Thursday, September 14th. And, following 77 year-old Maureen’s battle with three types of cancer, it will be the sweetest of celebrations.
Love has sparkled for this diamond couple ever since they married as teenagers at St Andrew’s CE Church, Duke Bar, Burnley.
“We’d spot each other at dance halls where Maureen once told her friend, ‘I’m going to marry that man,’” said Norman. “Our first dance - on our first date - was to the Anniversary Waltz, so I bought her a musical card on our 25th wedding anniversary which played it.”
They went on to have seven children - Gail Diane, Christine Anne, Janet Carol, Malcolm Rennie, Michael David, Carole Lynne and Deborah Jean - plus 13 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
But their marriage was tested when Maureen was left disabled after suffering collapsed disks at work as a nurse, for which she takes daily morphine. Norman, however, stood by her, retiring early at the age of 50 from a career in engineering to become her carer.
And when Maureen was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and, later, two types of breast cancer at once, he remained by her side.
Then, after their five daughters were tested, Carole discovered she too had breast cancer and endured a double mastectomy - events taking a near-fatal turn when her heart stopped during chemotherapy.
But Nelson-born Norman (79) has never been a stranger to adversity.
“I grew up poor and when my father died, we were thrown out of our house because my mother couldn’t afford the rent. We came to Burnley to live with my grandmother and with so many of us living together, my uncles had to sleep on the floor when they came home on leave from the war.”
Still, the family has had plenty to celebrate: Norman’s mother, Winifred Goulding, for example, made headlines for having three great-great grandchildren, before meeting four more.
And so the couple’s 60th anniversary is another addition to the family’s long catalogue of triumphs.
“Considering where we came from, I think their achievement is marvellous,” said daughter Deborah. “We were born in Stoops estate, a tough place to be brought up, but my dad ruled with an iron-fist and both our parents did a great job.
“They’ve had some hardships but despite all this, they’re alive and kicking.”