Photos of an elderly couple who fell in love 72 years ago have gone viral for their testament to a universal message: True love transcends time.
London-based photographer Sujata Setia met World War II veteran Mel Hughes, 95, and his wife, Vera, 90, while running a photography masterclass in Wales, the United Kingdom.
Sujata, 38, has been in the industry for six years since a passion project taking pictures of her daughter turned into a profession. Talking to The Epoch Times via email, Sujata said that listening to Vera and Mel’s life story was “just so fulfilling.”
The studio owner, Elaine, had invited the elderly couple to pose for a photo series that fit Sujata’s criteria: “a couple that has stood the test of time.”
The Hugheses married on March 29, 1952. The couple’s granddaughter, 31-year-old Laura Iwanski, told The Epoch Times that they met a few years after the war.
“My granddad was working as a plumber [and] he was called out to the veterinary practice where Nan worked,” Laura said.
Laura, who lives near Mel and Vera in the town of Abergavenny, South Wales, called the opportunity to see her grandparents’ love immortalized by Sujata as “an absolute privilege.”
“In her own words, she said, ‘It was love at first sight. I knew I wanted him to be mine, and look where we are now!’” Laura said.
Mel is a World War II veteran, having served alongside the Royal Engineers between 1943 and 1947.
“He was very fond of his father, and regularly says that he remembers one particular day in 1943, his father’s birthday,” Laura said. “Amongst the birthday cards in the post, there was a telegram.”
The telegram was a call to service for Mel, who recalled that bidding farewell to his father at the train station was the first time he had ever seen him cry.
“Fast forward to 2020,” Laura said, “despite the COVID restrictions, nothing would stop Mel from paying his respects at Armistice Day. He is proud of his medals, and will always remember the fallen, with a salute, every year at every opportunity.”
Sujata claims that Mel and Vera were initially perplexed by the photo project, but upon seeing the final images, they were ecstatic. So were social media users everywhere.
The passionate photographer shared some of her favorite images on the Instagram page But Natural Photography, where they racked up thousands of likes.
“I teach my photography students to always look for stories that can give us hope and a promise, that love can be eternal,” Sujata said.
The photographer hailed the Hugheses as a couple worth emulating.
“They have been through many trials in life together and yet they are one,” Sujata said.
“[T]he way they look after each other, the way they joke … and most importantly respect each other,” Sujata reflected. “All of it gave me so much hope that true lasting love does exist.”
Another huge reward for Sujata was seeing her students inspired to photograph their own grandparents, in celebration of their longevous lives and loves.
Laura said her grandmother often talks about her grandfather with grateful tears in her eyes.
“As for my grandad, he is a man of few words,” Laura said. “But it is crystal clear how absolutely devoted he is to Nan … Actions more than words.”
Mel and Vera had two children together, Clive and Cheryl. Laura’s mother, Cheryl, sadly passed away in 2013.
“Losing a daughter was one of their many tough obstacles,” Laura shared, “but they remember her with fondness.”
At 90 and 95 years old, the Hugheses are still very much involved in family and community. Laura’s 2-year-old son, Myles, is the apple of his grandparents’ eyes and was even born on Vera’s birthday. Myles calls his grandpa “Gagga,” just like Laura did when she was a child.
The Hugheses have struggled during the UK lockdown, missing contact with family and their volunteering roles at a local theater. But Laura says the stoic pair are simply taking each day as it comes; their best advice has always been never to give up on your partner.
“They inspire me every day … I just feel so privileged to be their granddaughter,” Laura expressed. “They are not ‘just’ an elderly couple, they are two ‘antique’ young people in love.”
“True love for me is ‘companionship.’ Love is not so much in words as it is in deeds,” Sujata said.
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