Ken Clark turns 95 tomorrow (Friday).

For the former Whitchurch mayor, it has been a “very happy life” – a lifetime of joy and adventure spent along with his wife Irene.

But this birthday will be different for the former Navy man.

Ken doesn’t have his beloved Irene by his side for the celebrations tomorrow. Suffering from dementia, she has been staying at Harrier Grange Care Home in Andover since last Saturday. And since she is in quarantine, Ken won’t get to meet her until May 2.

“I would have been happier if she was here,” Ken told the Advertiser from his home in Fairfield, as his eyes welled up.

“But I’m happy she is being looked after. I couldn’t manage to look after her anymore.”

Ken and Irene are celebrating their 74th wedding anniversary this June.

Having met for the first time on New Year’s Eve when they were 15 and 14, the couple have had a long and happy marriage.

Apart from the 14 months of Ken’s Naval duty, the two have always been together since they first met in Bournemouth.

“We were children really and we gradually fell in love,” Ken recalled.

Having volunteered to join the Navy, Ken got engaged with Irene just before he was drafted to India and then Sri Lanka (Ceylon then).

During their time away, Irene wrote to Ken 165 times, while he sent back 268 letters, sharing each experience from the Indian subcontinent.

He used to work as a lorry driver delivering spare parts for the British East India Fleet.

Ken remembers the day he was told to go back home as one of the best memories of his life.

“[It was] Very emotional.

“A week before, I had written to Irene to say that I wasn’t coming home. All others in my batch were returning home, but they couldn’t find a replacement for me. So I was told to stay put.

“But I was told a day before the journey that there was somebody else to take my place.”

Ken returned to Portsmouth harbour with 10 yards of silk from Colombo, so that Irene could stitch a beautiful wedding dress.

“It cost me 10 precious pounds – a month’s wage for me in those days.

“Although she suffers from dementia now, Irene still tells the nurses at her care home all about her wedding dress.”

After their wedding, Ken joined a coal firm as a clerk and the couple moved to Whitchurch.

Since then they have had an envious life. The two travelled the world, while raising their son John and daughter Heather.

They have enjoyed many family holidays from camping with motorbike and sidecar to progressing to owning a caravan. Over the years Irene and Ken have travelled all over Europe in their caravan including a five-week trip to Poland, and a trip to the Arctic Circle going via Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. They have also had two memorable trips to the United States, and a nostalgic journey to Sri Lanka where he was stationed in his teens.

When they bought a house in Whitchurch, Ken named it Veyangoda. It was the name of the small village where he was stationed in Sri Lanka.

Both Ken and Irene have served as Mayors of Whitchurch Town Council. Their son John has also served as Whitchurch Mayor. The town has honoured the family by having a Mews named after Ken. He is also the President of the local branch of the Royal British Legion and has received a Gold Badge in recognition of his work.

Looking back at their sweet and successful marriage, Ken says their secret is to never quarrel over money.

“And we always say we love each other just before we go to sleep.”