Phone proposal marked start of 60 years’ marriage
A couple celebrating 60 years of marriage toasted their achievement in style – by partying with most of their 101 grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Leonard Wilfred Challis proposed to Jean Armstrong during a long distance phone call before they married in October 1953. Last week the family threw a special party for the diamond duo at Lincoln Moorlands Railway Sports and Social Club in Newark Road.
And the North Hykeham couple, who have five children, were joined by the majority of their 36 grandchildren and 65 great grandchildren.
Incredibly, a total of four generations of people called Leonard Challis – Leonard Wilfred, his son Leonard George Sydney, grandson Leonard George and great grandson baby Leonard George Heskey enjoyed the festivities.
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And the original Leonard Challis, who served in the REME and was a fireman on locomotives in civvy street, said: “Jean is my life companion. What I’d say to young people getting married is that there are two halves to a successful marriage.”
Mrs Challis, 78, said: “We have had our ups and downs but life with Leonard has been absolutely fantastic.
“He’s an easy going person who’s easy to get on with.
“I came from a family of 11 and Leonard from a family of nine so having a big family ourselves was probably going to happen.
“Even when I worked in the market garden in the north east I used to knock on neighbours’ doors and borrow the bairns and fetch them to our house. I was just happy to be with the kids.”
Leonard became smitten with Jean after his Army pal John – her brother – showed him a photo of the girl who was destined to be his bride.
They met a few times and became pen pals and Mr Challis, now 81, sent a message to Jean to wait for a call at a certain phone box in her native Wallsend, in the north east.
The phone rang, she picked up the receiver and Mr Challis, calling from Lincoln, asked her to marry him.
She said yes and on October 10, 1953, they became man and wife at St Mary’s Church in the High Howdon part of town.
“I met Leonard through my brother John and we became pen pals,” recalled Mrs Challis. “He used to call me from Lincoln. Before he proposed he sent me a telegram to be at the phone box at 7pm.
“I got there with my sister Mary and the phone rang and he popped the question.
“In those days the done thing was to have your parents in on it and I was a bit nervous about telling them.
“I asked my sister what I should do and she said: ‘I would just tell him yes, then let’s go home’.”
Daughter-in-law Elizabeth Challis, from Boston, said the diamond couple’s family are so very welcoming.
“They never say son-in-law or daughter-in-law, you’re a son or a daughter,” she said.
“This has always been Leonard and Jean’s thing and it’s filtered through the generations. They’re such a lovely couple.”