A COUPLE who have devoted much of their lives to the Ashbourne Methodist Church circuit are looking forward to celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary later this month.
Eric and Marianne Matthews, of Peak View Drive, married in their home town of Ripley in 1954 and moved to Ashbourne in the early 1960s.
The couple, who have been together since their mid-teens, have always been involved with the Methodist Church, having cemented their relationship at a young age at the same Sunday school.
They married at Mount Tabor Methodist Church on a hot and thundery day and, at the time, Mr Matthews was working for local government in accountancy.
Having started as a junior clerk for Derbyshire County Council, his career saw him move through the ranks, working for several local authorities before settling in Ashbourne, working for the town's rural district council and then Derbyshire Dales District Council.
Mrs Matthews, 81, spent much of her career as school secretary at Clifton Primary School and at St Oswald's School.
They lived in Clifton until Peak View Drive was built and have been in the same house since.
Despite their busy careers, the Methodist Church has woven a thread throughout their lives and they have both had active roles within the local circuit.
Mr Matthews, 82, has served as a reader, taken on voluntary youth work and put his vocational skills to good use as a church treasurer and circuit steward.
Mr and Mrs Matthews have also been heavily involved in the church's cafe and outreach centre, Cornerstone in Church Street.
Until recently, they volunteered at Cornerstone and Mr Matthews still oversees the centre's finances.
Mr Matthews also has a long history as a volunteer with the town's talking newspapers service.
Through his work with the district council, he became involved with the Ashbourne Rotary-led charity, which sees volunteers read articles from the News Telegraph on to tapes, which are sent to blind and partially-sighted people.
Their diamond wedding anniversary falls on Thursday, August 21, and they plan to celebrate by holding an open house for friends and family, followed by a family meal at Ashbourne Golf Club.
Mr Matthews said: "We've had a very happy marriage and it doesn't feel like we've been together 60 years at all.
"I think the secret to our long marriage is find pleasure in things together, to give and take and to have patience with each other.
"None of us are perfect, we've all got our idiosyncrasies and imperfections, but we talk to each other and listen to each other and show interest in what each of us are doing.
"We've grown up together and we've always been there for each other.
"We've been extremely fortunate."