Published: 11:02, 25 April 2017
A couple married for 77 years died on the same day after hospital staff moved their beds next to each other so they could hold hands for one final time.
Joyce and Frank Dodd were just teenagers when they met but more than eight decades later they had created a loving family consisting of five children, 12 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
As they lay in separate wards in Darent Valley Hospital, Dartford, staff realised their family couldn’t bear to see Joyce, 97, and Frank, 96, of Barr Road, Gravesend, apart just days after their wedding anniversary.
The couple’s daughter Angela Bonell, 75, who lives with husband Eric in Gordon Road, Strood, said: “The staff were excellent.
“They had mum upstairs and dad downstairs and they asked us if we would like them to bring their beds together.
“They brought dad upstairs so they could lay and hold hands.
“The staff on Redwood ward went above and beyond anything we could have hoped for, it was really special.”
Frank, who had heart failure, had spent five weeks in a care home before going into hospital and his devoted wife visited him every day until she became ill too.
The couple died on Saturday, April 8, Frank at 4am and his wife at 6pm.
Joyce, who had three sisters, was born in The Foresters Arms, Parrock Street, Gravesend, and Frank in Prospect Place and they met when they were 14.
She was a waitress and he worked as a sawyer at Bartons timber yard and five years after meeting they married at St George’s Church in the town centre.
After the wedding they lived with Joyce’s parents at their crab shop in West Street and their eldest three children, Alan, Angela and John, were born there.
Frank, who was one of 13 siblings, was called up to the Army in 1940 and served in Africa and Italy, as a service engineer, for six years.
After the Second World War, daughter Glenda was born and Frank worked long shifts at Imperial Paper Mills in Gravesend as well as growing vegetables to feed his expanding family.
Joyce helped out at the Darby and Joan Club in Chalk and was playing the piano there when she went into labour with their youngest child, Ann.
Joyce was well known for organising games for the children and encouraging everyone to don fancy dress outfits for parties, although somehow Frank always managed to avoid dressing up.
Mrs Bonell said her parents were “like chalk and cheese”.
After they retired, Frank continued to enjoy gardening and refused to let age slow him down.
His daughter recalled finding her dad up a ladder, painting a drain pipe, at the age of 94.
Joyce, who loved baking, always had homemade cake for visitors and never went to a party without a quiche, her children said.
In a touching statement prepared for their joint funeral, the family said: “Joyce and Frank enjoyed 77 happy years of marriage and in later years, as their health declined, they still looked after each other and were together until the very end.”
A funeral will be held at Gravesend Crematorium in Gravesend Road, Shorne, at 11am on Monday, May 15. The family has asked for donations to Cancer Research UK or British Heart Foundation.