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Devoted couple pass away within hours

PUBLISHED: 09:36 13 November 2008 | UPDATED: 10:46 12 July 2010

Jean and Austin Debenham at their diamond wedding anniversary celebrations earlier this year.

Jean and Austin Debenham at their diamond wedding anniversary celebrations earlier this year.

They were a devoted couple who never argued and thought the world of each other.

Austin and Jean Debenham met as teenagers and made their promise to never leave one another when they married on New Year's Day in 1948.

They were a devoted couple who never argued and thought the world of each other.

Austin and Jean Debenham met as teenagers and made their promise to never leave one another when they married on New Year's Day in 1948.

It was a commitment they would keep as the loyal couple, who enjoyed 60 years of happy marriage, passed away within three hours of each another.

The couple's daughter Margaret Sparham spoke of the pair's unswerving devotion to each other.

“They were very much devoted to each other,” she said. “I never heard them argue. They lived for each other. I think this is what they would have wanted. Dad wouldn't have wanted to be on his own.

“It has hit me hard because I didn't expect both of them to go, but I think someone up there decided they were going to be together.”

Mr Debenham was taken to All Hallows Hospital in Ditchingham for respite care while Mrs Debenham underwent heart valve surgery at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire.

Mrs Sparham said her father had not been well for some time and suffered from a bone marrow illness. His devoted wife was his main carer.

While in hospital Mr Debenham was diagnosed with bronchial pneumonia and he passed away at 11pm last Friday at the age of 82.

Mrs Debenham, who knew nothing of her husband's fate, died three hours later at 2pm on Saturday in the critical care unit at Papworth Hospital. She was 79.

The couple spent 58 years in their home in South Elmham St Margaret, but later moved to Hempnall.

Earlier this year the couple celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary and enjoyed a lunch at The Mill in Hempnall with 40 friends and family.

The couple first met through Mr Debenham's sister Joy who was a work colleague of his future wife.

They were married three years later at Starston Church, when Mr Debenham was 21 and his bride was 18.

Mr Debenham worked for his father on a farm in South Elmham St Margaret for much of his life before working for JJ Walpole and Son in South Elmham St Nicholas where he finally retired at the age of 70.

The couple were very much involved in community life in St Margaret and Mrs Debenham was secretary at the village hall before becoming the caretaker, a post she held for more than 40 years until 2005.

She was also involved in the village church for a number of years and the couple were always busy, something Mrs Debenham said had contributed to the couple's long marriage.

Speaking at the couple's diamond wedding anniversary celebrations, she told the Mercury's sister paper the Beccles and Bungay Journal: “He used to enjoy doing his thing and I enjoyed doing mine. But we also had good friends at St Margaret's and we did a lot of things together.”

Mrs Sparham described her mother and father as a happy and popular couple. She said: “Dad was a quiet man unless talking about farming. I loved him. He was a very caring dad. Mum was my best friend. We got on really well. She loved being involved in things.”

The couple leave two daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren.


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