Love and companionship at Norwich care home
At 89 and 94 respectively, Ken Brown and Joyce Hulks knew that moving into a care home would mark a new phase in their lives – however they did not count on finding love.
Corton House is a place of new chapters: renewed faith, new friendships and finding companionship.
Ken and Joyce separately moved into Corton House, a not-for-profit care home on the leafy outskirts of Norwich city centre, and initially did not know each other.
“He used to come down here near the lounge and we got talking, and we gradually got more friendly.”
Now, Ken and Joyce like to take their meals together, as well as enjoying Joyce’s collection of 1940s music. “He comes to my room sometimes, and I put the tapes on and we listen to them.”
Ken and Joyce’s home was opened in 1952 by the following an appeal by the Norwich Free Church Council and operates with a Christian ethos of love and care at the heart of everything it does. It welcomes residents of any faith or none and offers regular Christian worship and the services of a Chaplain.
For Ken in particular, Corton House has been a place of new chapters: he recently renewed his faith with the support of the home’s Chaplain Reverend Rhonwen Washford, who arranged for The Right Reverend Malcolm Menin to visit the home and confirm him.
Reverend Washford says, “Confirmation is an important choice...Ken wanted to make promises which his parents and grandparents said on his behalf at his infant Christening. With the help of Father Richard Stanton at St John the Baptist, Timberhill, we were able to present Ken with both a copy of his Baptism certificate, and a certificate of Confirmation at the same time.
I know that Ken was deeply moved on receiving these, as were his family and friends; nearly 90 years for Ken to reach this significant point on his journey of faith.”
Ken – whose varied former jobs include shoe repairer, member of the RAF’s bomb disposal squad, semi-professional footballer, cocoa bean roaster, and local Councilor – also found in Joyce a partner with whom he could mull over the existential questions of life:
“You need to talk your thoughts over with your partner. I keep saying to Joyce, every time you look up at the sky and you see something there, I think to myself, “Who created all this? Where did it come from?”
“I feel my faith is telling me there must be something else… and I thought, I should be confirmed because there’s something there, this didn’t just happen. I was happy to get confirmed – I don’t know why I really let it go all this long while – I just never got round to it!”
Joyce, who was born in Carshalton, Surrey, and brought up in the Church, moved to St Albans once she married. Later, she worked with adults with learning disabilities. She enjoys the variety of activities and crafts on offer in Corton House – recently exhibiting a collection of dolls clothing and paintings she created earlier in life for other residents at the care home to enjoy.
Art was always within Joyce somewhere - “I enjoyed doing them. I did ever so many. I’ve given most of them away now though. Though I’m glad they’ve gone to a good home, some with Ken’s family.”
The support of their families is clearly very important to the couple. Several family members came for Ken’s recent Confirmation service, including Joyce’s brother and his wife, who sent a Bible to him.
Joyce’s family are “marvellous” and keep in touch via frequent phone calls, while Ken’s daughter regularly visits him, “sometimes twice, three times, four times a week – she’s lovely, I love her dearly.” Recently she gave Joyce a beautiful turquoise ring, which had belonged to her mother, Ken’s late wife Audrey. “My daughter had it when my wife died, and she thought it appropriate that Joyce should have it.”
Joyce agrees. “They’ve all accepted me. That’s really lovely.”
The two have no plans for marriage, as Ken reveals: “Though we aren’t joined in matrimony, we’re joined in spirit. And as long as we’re joined in spirit and we go with the spirit, I think we’re alright.”
Pictured: Joyce and Ken; “We want to be happy, so that’s what we’re doing - we are happy!” says Ken.