Centenarian George Huggins is living proof that you are never too old to take pride in your appearance.
Even at the grand age of 103, the former legal executive still dresses himself in a shirt and tie whatever the occasion, come rain or shine.
As he celebrated his birthday, his daughter Jill Hart recalled that she once bought Mr Huggins a T-shirt.
“He never wore it,” she said. “He does wear a short-sleeve shirt in the summer but still with a tie.”
Mr Huggins is the oldest resident at The Hollies in Darnley Road, Gravesend, and believed to be the second oldest man in Gravesham.
He was born on March 8, 1912, and was the only child of George and Harriet Huggins. The family lived in Peacock Street, Gravesend, and he attended Russell Street School.
There was no playground and the children amused themselves in the streets, which Mr Huggins recalled as being filthy from the farmers’ cattle herded along the roads.
He was only 12 when his father died in his 40s from flu. Mr Huggins left school two years later and joined solicitors Couves in Windmill Street as an office junior. It was a legal career that would last more than 60 years.
As a young man Mr Huggins met Rose Hockley, who was from Rosherville, Northfleet, at Gordon Promenade and, after a long courtship, the couple married at St Mary’s Church in Wrotham Road, on January 23, 1941.
It was later discovered the church did not have permission to conduct marriages so Parliament is believed to have granted a special licence.
Mr and Mrs Huggins, who went on to live in Woodfield Avenue, Gravesend, married while Mr Huggins was on leave from the army. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps in 1940, which had an administrative role and was nicknamed The Buffs.
Mr Huggins set sail for North Africa on a Dutch cargo ship. “We didn’t have bunks, we just lay on the deck, and were on the boat for about a week,” he recalled.
Mr Huggins served in North Africa, Sicily and Italy until the end of the war. “I had a gun, but never any ammunition.
“We didn’t go into the danger zones. We weren’t fighting soldiers, we were supply.”
Mrs Huggins, who worked for Scotts Photographers in Wellington Street, Gravesend, and then the Imperial Paper Mill in Northfleet, gave birth to their only child, Jill, in September 1943.
After the war, Mr Huggins returned to Couves. He later joined another legal firm, Donald H Spain in Wrotham Road, before starting at Hatten Winnett and Holland in the town, now known as Hatten Wyatt.
The firm displayed portraits of its partners on its office walls, alongside one of Mr Huggins, and he worked there until he was 75. They still send him a birthday card every year.
“My dad is a very quiet, gentlemanly person and was very well-respected in his office,” explained Mrs Hart, who lives in New Barn.
“He was never formally trained, but became a legal executive and specialised in conveyancing and probate.”
Sadly, his wife died unexpectedly from an asthma-related illness in 1971, aged 58. He never remarried and stayed in the family home until he moved into The Hollies in July 2012.
Mr Huggins, who has two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, celebrated his milestone birthday with his daughter, her husband Frank, granddaughter Kathryn Barrett and her three children, Tommy, 15, Freddie, 11 and seven-year-old Poppy.
The centenarian has none of the usual age-related conditions such as arthritis and has suffered no major illnesses. He credits being a non-smoker and a non-drinker for his longevity.
Despite reaching such a remarkable age, Mr Huggins is known for an unusual piece of advice.
“Don’t grow old,” he said, before adding: “How old am I? 103? Ridiculous.”