GWEN and Gordon Wheeler, who celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary this week, have raised nearly £20,000 for charities, through their fortnightly tea dances in Royal Wootton Bassett.
Gwen, 81, and Gordon, 82, first met at a dance in Shrivenham, where Gwen spent her early years. Gordon was doing National Service based at Watchfield and Gwen worked in the office of the Royal Military College of Science. Romance soon blossomed through their shared love of dancing.
They married at Shrivenham Church on March 27, 1954, above. Gwen’s mother used to make tea for dancers at Shrivenham Memorial Hall, and Gwen carried on the family tradition for five years after moving to Royal Wootton Bassett.
“Then the people who ran the tea dances retired, and everyone said we should take it over, so we did. Now dancers come from all around the area,” Gwen said.
“The average attendance is 60. After the hot weather last summer, we’ve decided to take a break this year, so there will be no dances in June, July and August.”
Gordon, originally from Birmingham, was a bricklayer, who used his experience in the building industry to complete two self-build projects and to renovate various homes, over the years. He changed his day job and worked for PO Telephones (later British Telecom) for 40 years.
The couple have moved house 16 times since spending the first two years of married life at Gwen's parents' home.
They have lived at Shrivenham, Faringdon, various parts of Swindon, Wroughton, Purton and Royal Wootton Bassett. Their life is centred on dancing, and they love planning the tea dances, for which they choose the music carefully, to give plenty of variety, and enjoy organising the raffle.
The couple have a son who lives in France. Sadly, they lost their only daughter six years ago. Their grandchildren live nearby in Swindon and Bristol.
The couple’s tea dances have benefited many causes. Their simple philosophy was summed up by Gordon. He said: “It’s lovely to do this for other people.
“People enjoy the dances and we are very fortunate to be able to give money away, which is a pleasure.”