Devoted Hartlepool couple died within eight days of each other

Richard and Edna Rowntree
Richard and Edna Rowntree

A devoted Hartlepool couple were side by side as they made their final journey - just as they had been for decades.

The real-life love story of Richard and Edna Rowntree, both 87, only ended when they died within eight days of each other.

Richard and Edna Rowntree

Richard and Edna Rowntree

They were buried in the first ever husband-and-wife double funeral to be officiated by Holy Trinity Church Rev Roz Hall, in Davison Drive.

And as one last gift to the town they adored, they left £15,000 to the three charities closest to their hearts.

Today, the executor of their estate Alan Illingworth told of the love which stood the test of time.

He said: “I am sure they would have wanted to go the way they did - at the same time.

Richard and Edna Rowntree

Richard and Edna Rowntree

“They spent their entire lives together. What better way to go.”

The couple, who never had children of their own, had been in each other’s lives since they were both three, when Richard and his family moved to Marine Drive on the Headland - the same street where Edna was born.

They courted and went to Saturday night dances before marrying at St Barnabas Church.

They enjoyed 63 years of happy marriage and the only time they were ever apart was when Richard went to sea in his job as a shipwright’s carpenter.

He came home to marry and they never parted again - until the final year of their lives when a tragic fall left Richard with an injury from which he never properly recovered.

His calf was slashed open and needed surgery as well as a long hospital stay.

Even then, 86-year-old Edna visited him every day.

Sadly, Edna herself then suffered a fall and was taken to another hospital. For the first time in more than 60 years, they were apart.

But Mr Illingworth, whose wife was Richard’s sister, stepped in and made sure they were re-united.

He got them both a place at the same Trimdon Station care home where they enjoyed each other’’s company again - until Richard contracted pneumonia.

He was taken back to hospital and never recovered.

Meanwhile, his wife’s own health deteriorated and she died just eight days before her husband also passed away, both in February this year.

After they passed, part of the couple’s estate went to three charities who each received £5,000 each.

They were Alice House Hospice, the Hartlepool RNLI, and Holy Trinity Church, Davison Drive.

Each was astonished to receive the generous donation - and each was moved to tears by the romantic story behind it.

• The RNLI.

It was an especially poignant moment for Beryl Sherry, the chairman of the Hartlepool RNLI branch fundraising committee.

At first, she didn’t realise who the donation had come from. Then it dawned on her. It was from the very lady who had sat behind her in church.

“I did shed a tear,” said Beryl. “She was a lovely lady.”

And in another remarkable coincidence, Beryl was herself born in a set of bungalows just yards from Edna’s Marine Drive home.

The money, she said, would be used to pay for a piece of medical equipment for the RNLI.

• Alice House Hospice.

Hospice senior manager fundraising Rebecca Jobson never knew Richard or Edna.

But after hearing of their story, she said: “It is really romantic. I always feel a little sad that I cant meet them in person to say thank you for what they have done.

“It was a real surprise when we got the news of the money.”

She said it would probably be invested in some way in patient care.

Rev Roz Hall, of Holy Trinity Church, described the donation as “amazing.”

And she admitted the story behind it was “incredibly moving. When Alan told me, I was in tears.”

She said she officiated at the double funeral of Richard and Edna, the first time she had ever held such a ceremony.

The £5,000 donation to the church would be used in a way to be decided by the PCC, she said.