THEY say it is never too late to find love — and for pensioners John Walkden and Joan Williams it was well worth the wait.
Their romance grew from friendship after they met at their local church in Farnworth seven years ago.
And this week they will finally tie the knot.
The couple say meeting so much later in life was “meant to be”.
Miss Williams, aged 81, has never married and, until she met Mr Walkden, had accepted she may never walk down the aisle.
She lived happily on her own in Bradford Street, Farnworth, and was a member of the congregation at St Peter’s Church in Farnworth.
Yet widower Mr Walkden had lost his wife Alwyn in 2006 and was struggling to come to terms with her death. He found himself at a “crossroads” and took to drinking.
The father-of-three, aged 75, said: “I’d got to a point where I was either going to turn to drink or turn to church.
"I had to make a choice and I decided I would go back to church. That turned out to be the decision that changed everything.”
The couple first met at St Peter’s and became friends.
Mr Walkden said: “We used to have a chat and eventually we became closer.”
When the church closed in 2007, they joined in St John’s Church in Albert Road and Mr Walkden would give Miss Williams a lift every Sunday morning.
Then one Sunday, she plucked up the courage to tell him how she felt.
Mr Walkden said: “I can remember she asked me to pick her up earlier than usual. So I did and she said to me, ‘I think I love you, John’. And that’s when I realised I loved her too.”
As the church had been a big part of the couple’s life, Mr Walkden spoke to the vicar, the Rev Cherry Vann.
When Mr Walkden proposed, he was initially rebuffed by “independent” Miss Williams, who wanted to stay in her new flat in Bradford Street.
Instead, they wore rings as a sign of their commitment and had their relationship blessed by the Rev Vann.
But after seven years of dating, the couple decided it was time to move in together. And that was when Mr Walkden popped the question again.
The former North West Electricity Board driver, said: “I got down on one knee and said, ‘Joan, will you be my wife?’ and she said ‘yes’.
“We’re very much looking forward to married life.”
The future Mrs Walkden added: “It will be lovely to finally be together. We have always thought it was meant to be. We just took a little longer to get there.”
The couple will tie the knot with close family and friends on Saturday at Mere Hall — although Miss Williams is remaining tight-lipped about what her dress will be like.