Teenage Sweethearts Prove it's Never Too Late as They Reunite and Marry in Their 70s
A lovesick British couple whose teen romance dissolved under the weight of parental disapproval has reunited and married—six decades after splitting up.
“We have simply picked up where we left off. It’s like being teenage sweethearts all over again,” Eileen Billington, 78, told SWNS.com about her newfound relationship with Warner, 79. “It’s as though we have never been apart. As well as loving each other, we are good companions, just as we were when we first met. In fact, we are just like an old married couple.”
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Eileen Lockley met Warner Billington back she was 16 and he was 17, living as neighbors in the West Midlands area of central England, when Warner noticed her walking by with her sister Margaret.
“I saw her and I was smitten,” Warner told the Daily Mail. “I got a pair of garden shears and pretended to cut the hedge outside my parents’ house. When they passed, I said, ‘Hello Margs, who’s that with you?’ and we got talking.”
Shortly thereafter, Warner enlisted in the Royal Air Force and was stationed about three hours away in South Wales. But he wrote to Eileen, an aspiring tap dancer who worked for the gas board, and asked her on a date, and they spent time going to movies and the seashore whenever he was home on leave. They also wrote to each other every other day.
Two years later, they planned to wed. But Eileen’s father said they were too young, and Warner lost his nerve.
“I thought Eileen’s father was wrong, but I didn’t propose,” he recalled. “Somehow, we just parted after that. It was my fault, I just went my own way.”
And life went on for both of them. In 1956, Eileen married a man named Jack Lenton, with whom she ran a hotel in Newquay, Cornwall. They had a son and a daughter, and were together until Jack died in 2006.
Warner, meanwhile, married a woman named Gillian in 1957. They had three sons and were together until Gillian’s death in 2010.
Though Eileen and Warner hadn’t seen each other since their breakup, a friend of Warner’s was a regular at Eileen’s hotel, and Eileen would always ask her how Warner was doing. When she heard he had lost his wife, she called him to express her condolences, and after that they chatted on the phone regularly.
A year later, Warner invited Eileen to visit him at his home in West Midlands; it culminated in a tearful reunion at the train station, where Warner met her “hair all slicked back and roses at the ready,” he told SWNS.com. Then, with the approval of both their families, Warner moved in with Eileen in 2011, and they were married soon thereafter.
“We both had very happy marriages, but anyone who tells you that they don’t remember their first love is fibbing,” Warner said. “Both Eileen and I often wondered about what might have happened if things had worked out differently. But we don’t dwell on it now.”