Local lovebirds, Rick and Maureen Sperinck from Slade Green ran away to Gretna Green in 1964, aged 18, to get married. The pair remained together until Rick died at Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice in January 2023, where their love story continued until the end. This Valentine’s Day marks 60 years since their first date, and what better way to remember Rick than to share the couple’s story:
The pair met aged 16 when Maureen went along to see a local band performing which, it turns out, Rick was in. She recognised him from the local Cadets they were both a part of.
Maureen said: ‘I thought I’d go and have a bit of a laugh so up I went to the front right where he could see me and I gave him a little wink. He just froze!
Right in the middle of his drum solo!’
The pair had their first date on Valentine’s Day, babysitting for Rick’s brother, and from that point on they were inseparable. However, they were forced to meet in secret as Maureen’s father wouldn’t accept their relationship, banning them from seeing each other. Two years later, and very much head over heels, Maureen moved in with Rick’s family and they ran away to Gretna Green to get married.
Catching the train from Paddington, they didn’t dare tell the train guard where they were headed in case Maureen’s dad found out. ‘I just had a feeling my dad would have someone following us or would track us down. I didn’t want to risk anything, I just wanted to marry Rick and be happy.’
After hours of travelling through the night, they arrived in Scotland and when the time came, they set off to the registry office which was across some fields. ‘I borrowed some wellies, so I didn’t get my shoes dirty, but Rick moaned the whole way because his cowboy boots were getting muddy!’
‘I couldn’t say my vows properly, I kept stumbling over the word ‘impediment’ – it just wouldn’t come out right! Rick kept looking at me amused, he knows I always get words wrong.’ After three attempts Maureen managed to say her vows and they were officially married!
The happy couple went on to have three children: Joanne, Raymond, and Angela. And, almost 60 years later, Rick was staying at the hospice, and they were still very much in love.
I thought a hospice was a place to die... but it's marvellous
In 2020, aged 73, Rick was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer, which led to him having his voice box removed, and speaking with an electrolarynx. For some time after he was well and keeping active, but in 2022 developed lung cancer.
Maureen and their daughter Angie, an Occupational Therapist, looked after him at home but this became increasingly difficult:
‘Giving him the drugs he needed – there were so many. It was a lot to manage. He was becoming weaker; one night he got out of bed to go to the toilet and had fallen – he was on the landing for three hours before I found him.’
Rick hadn’t initially wanted to leave home, but upon arriving at Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice, soon changed his mind and said:
‘I’m so glad I’m here. I thought a hospice was a place to go to die…but it’s marvellous.’
The family spent their last Christmas together at the hospice which Rick said was ‘fantastic’. The nursing team
dressed as elves and danced around him whilst he pretended to play the drums.
Angie said: ‘Dad was comfortable, he was safe, surrounded by family, smiling. A memory we will always remember.’
When asked what the secret to a happy marriage was, Rick told us:
‘Talk. If there’s a problem you’ve got to talk about it’, whilst Maureen added: ‘We always hold hands don’t we Rick, just to show how much we care for each other.’