Tom scores a century!

Tom Lovell of Coventry credits his 100-years-young to his lifelong passion for exercise including competitive road racing, hill walking and ballroom dancing.

Tom, who achieves his century on December 22, gave up cycling, leading walks and driving only eight years ago but he still takes to the dance floor three times a week and plays Scrabble, uses a computer, Skypes and has written a book of his memoirs.

“I believe all this exercise from a very young age has helped me a lot physically and playing Scrabble keeps my mind active,” said Tom, who has lived in one of our retirement flats in Coventry for more than 25 years, “and I’ve never smoked which many of my contemporaries took up”.

The eldest of three boys, Tom was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1919 and recalls setting off alone, aged 16, on a 650 mile cycle tour that took in the Lake District, Scotland and Lincolnshire over five days.

World War II broke out when he was 19 and Tom signed up as a nursing orderly and joined the 2nd Armoured Division, several times narrowly missing being sunk at sea on transportation ships to war zones including Cairo, Crete, Palestine, Tobruck in Eastern Libya, and Suez.

After demob at the end of the war, Tom resumed his trade as a roofer, working for Wormell’s Roofing and cycling to jobs all over the Midlands carrying his tools on his bike.

“Fortunately all the slates, as we used then, were transported to the sites by lorry,” explained Tom who, over the years, worked on the roofs of Rugby Town Hall, St Stephen’s church and spire in Coventry, Morrisons supermarket at Oadby and the creation of the huge ‘W’ shaped roof of the social building at Warwick University.

In his younger life Tom was a serious time trial cyclist, competing nationally for Coventry Cycling Club alongside two friends. In 1948 they took team gold in the National Hill Climb Championships and were presented with their medals at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

In 1953 he decided to emigrate to New Zealand and got free passage provided he continued in the building trade for at least two years. His fiancé Janet was unsure, however, only deciding to join him two days prior to his departure on the SS Captain Cook from Liverpool. Her uncertainty cost them £80 for her ticket, and they sailed separately to Wellington before marrying in Auckland that year.

“We were out there seven years, during which we had twin daughters Fiona and Susan and I built our family bungalow. We were a bit cramped whilst work went on as we moved into the garage which had to accommodate a double bed, two cots and our cooking area. Our shower was in a shed out the back served by a five gallon drum!”  

The family returned to Coventry in 1960 and Tom started a £14-a-week job as a roofing estimator with his old firm Wormells. They had their third daughter Rose, bought their first car for £105 and acquired 50 Aldbury Rise, Allesley for £2,100.

Retirement, did not mean that for Tom – he enrolled in painting classes, joined the CHA Rambling Club and for 30 years enjoyed leading walks mostly in the Derbyshire Dales, and took up ballroom sequence dancing.

“Janet and I discovered the delight of this type of dancing in 1985 and loved it. My favourite dance is the rumba,” he added.

Dancing is top of the bill for his birthday party and 100 family and friends including 20 from a local walking club will be attending on December 22, while we will be marking his century as part of our retirement scheme’s Christmas celebrations on December 18.

Daughter Fiona di Pietro said: “Dad is an inspiration and certainly passed on to us his incredible strength of character and work ethic. We had a wonderful childhood going out to different parks with a picnic every Sunday and holidays every year. The family, including his three grandchildren and three great grandchildren, and his many friends are looking forward to celebrating his special day.”

16th December 2019 | 2019