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A 71-year-old woman has married a 17-year-old toyboy just three weeks after meeting him at her son’s funeral.
When grieving pensioner Almeda Errell went to pay her last respects at her son’s funeral, the last thing she expected to find was love.
Following a whirlwind three-week romance, she and Gary Hardwick – now 18, and who had previously dated a woman of 77 – tied the knot in a ceremony which he arranged for just £137 in six days.
Later, on their wedding night, they had sex for the first time.
“It was wonderful, beyond my wildest dreams,” revealed Gary. “She really is my dream woman and the physical side of our relationship couldn’t be better.”
“It was the best ever,” agreed Almeda. “I’d never had a connection like it before.”
And now the unlikely pair are sharing Almeda’s house with one of her grandsons who is three years OLDER than her new husband.
“I wasn’t looking for a young man, but Gary just came along,” said Almeda, a supermarket assistant. “I just knew straight away that he was the one.”
Her happiness at their meeting was in stark contrast to the lonely despair the mother-of-four had endured after being widowed and then losing her eldest son Robert,45, after a seizure.
“I’d been married to my first husband Donald for 43 years, and so when he died in 2013 after seven months in hospital from complications with diabetes, I found myself on my own,’ said Almeda.
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“I’d turn up for work in tears and my colleagues would ask me what was wrong. Deep down, I was searching for a soulmate.
Almeda was also having to cope with Robert’s failing health.
“He’d always had problems following a road accident when he was younger,” she said.
“But when his wife Lisa called to say he’d died, I was devastated. It was a hard time for me.”
Gary, whose attraction to older women started with a crush on a teacher at the age of eight, said he had also been in turmoil, feeling trapped in an unhappy relationship with his 77-year-old lover.
“We were always fighting,’ said Gary. “I fell into depression and was looking for a way out.”
That’s when Lisa, his aunt, invited him to join other mourners for her husband Robert’s cremation.
Almeda said: “I’d noticed this young man with a lovely smile during the service and thought, ‘Wow, this is the one.’
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“He was on the other side of the church, but I kept looking over at him. It was like a bright light through the grief.
“Then, as I was walking to the door at the end, he came over and passed on his condolences. We didn’t have much time, but it was enough.”
For the next few months, she couldn’t stop thinking about Gary.
But what she didn’t realise was that the feeling was mutual – and as soon as he broke up with his girlfriend, he raced round to Lisa’s to confess his love for Almeda.
“It was an instant thing for me too,” said Gary. “She had the most gorgeous, sparkling blue eyes. When I told Lisa that I liked Almeda, she said that she liked me too and that she should get us together.”
Soon after, Lisa asked them both along to a family meal at the nearby Chuck E Cheese’s pizza restaurant for her daughter Evelyn’s ninth birthday. Sitting next to each other, it didn’t take long for the old spark to reignite.
“He was just as I remembered,” said Almeda. “That smile, those good looks. We were both too nervous to eat, and at one point he fell over his chair.”