A WIDOW has paid tribute to her “kind and loving” loving husband who died just days short of their 65th wedding anniversary.

Jean Piper, 82, who would have celebrated the landmark date with Edwin, 85, yesterday, said: “He had been very ill. Over the years he’s had heart attacks, strokes and has been on dialysis for more than eight years after having kidney failure. At Christmas he had pneumonia and has gone down ever since.

“I kept telling him ‘you have to hang on until our anniversary’. He used to laugh about it. He never complained. He always got on with it. Everybody would say he was always smiling. And he was.

“He was so kind and loved the family.”

Mrs Piper, of Tanfield Lea, near Stanley, County Durham, said when her husband was discharged from hospital for the final time last Thursday “he knew he wasn’t going to get better”.

She said: “When I said I’d get the bed ready, he replied ‘no I’m sitting’. And he sat there for six hours chatting to the family and watching the telly. He was really poorly on Saturday.

“When I woke early Sunday the room was quiet and I knew he was gone. It was a relief for him. He kept saying ‘Jean, I’m sorry, I’ve had enough’. He couldn’t do it any more. He had had a good life. It’s a relief for him. He’s at rest now.”

Mrs Piper recalled her husband was in full flow in a singing competition when she saw him for the first time.

They may not have taken further notice of each other at the time, but they eventually met at the Palais, in Stanley, and their friendship went on to blossom into romance.

Mrs Piper said: “I first saw Edwin when I went to Castle’s Ball Room in Catchgate. I was 15-years-old at the time.

“He used to enter crooning competitions and was singing.

“We all used to go to dancing and later we both started taking dancing lessons at the Shield Row School, where we learned the quickstep and waltz.”

Mr Piper was a miner at the East Tanfield pit at the time. When it closed he went to work in the workshops.

Mrs Piper said: “He loved music. He stopped singing, but later joined the jazz band Phoenix and played bass guitar and euphonium.

“They played all over the region, including at the jazz club in Newcastle, where the manager was Polish. He arranged for them to go on a three-week tour of Poland, where they were on appeared on television and radio.”

The couple lived in Stanley until, in 1969, their home was subject to a compulsory purchase order and demolished to make way for a roundabout.

Mrs Piper said: “We had just finished paying for our house. At the same time the workshop where Edwin worked was closed down and we moved down to Pontefract, West Yorkshire.

“We lived there for 30 years. He worked for the National Coal Board, as a progress chaser.”

Mrs Piper, who worked as a hospital cleaner and school dinner lady, added: “He was in his 50s when he started having ill health.

“During the 1984 Miners’ Strike the men were all out on the picket lines. He wasn’t well enough to go on them, but helped in the soup kitchens.”

Mr Piper is survived by children Jeff and Tracy, grandchildren Dan and Suzie and great-granddaughter Sophie.