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On Monday night I was doing the usual 'bedtime scroll through social media' and a post on Instagram really jumped out at me - nope, not one about the latest weight loss fad or the must-have handbag... the post was about this gentleman:

Who Is Tony Williams?


Tony Williams is a pensioner who put up a heart-breaking poster in his window ‘as a last resort’ to make friends after the death of his wife left him completely isolated. Tony, 75, from Hampshire, said he feels ‘cursed’ by loneliness after his wife of 35 years, Jo, died just 9 days after being diagnosed with cancer during lockdown.


The couple were unable to have children and he has no family that live nearby. Since the death of his ‘soul mate’, he said he often goes for days without speaking to anyone and instead stays at home hoping the phone will ring ‘but it never does’. Tony spent £120 placing two adverts in his local newspaper in a bid to find a new friend but he never received a reply. He then had business cards made including his details and handed out dozens when he went to the supermarket or out for a walk – but again, no one called.

 

In a last-ditch attempt, the pensioner has put up a poster in his window hoping to find some pals to have a chat with over a brew in the garden, or listen to music together. ‘Not very many people pass my house, but I was hoping it would spread around the community, and someone might reach out. All I want is for somebody to see the sign and phone me up. I just want a nice conversation so I’m not sat in silence all day long.'

Reaching Out

I found his phone number in a newspaper article and at about 9.30am on Tuesday morning I decided to give him a call. To be honest I didn't even think that the number would connect so when he answered I was pretty taken aback! The conversation went something like this;

Me: 'Hi Tony, my name's Sarah, you don't know me but I just wanted to give you a call to see how you are doing today'
Tony: 'Ah hello Sarah how nice of you to call, whereabouts in the country are you calling from?'

I told him I was based in Lancashire and asked him how he was. He said he was very well and that he had been blown away by the response from the media coverage. He said he had had calls from people all over the world and that he couldn't keep up with the amount of emails coming through - 'about 4-5 a minute'! He said he 'wasn't looking for anyone's shoulder to cry on - I am just looking for companionship and good conversation'. He told me how he and his wife moved to Hampshire from Gloucestershire in order to downsize just over 12 months ago but then lockdown happened and his wife (and only friend / family member in the area) passed away in May. I honestly got goosebumps when he was telling me this, and, in fact, I am getting them again, as I am regaling this story to you. It just makes me so sad that there must be millions of people like him across the world that don't have the foresight to 'put themselves out there' like Tony did. 

He was very well-spoken, articulate and clearly an intelligent man so I asked him what he had done prior to retiring. He had worked 'in industry' writing instruction manuals and managing the publicity for a variety of companies, the most recent being a Nuclear Chemical firm. Well we certainly had a common interest there - I told him I was in marketing and he said that it was an area he was heavily involved in later on in his career. So that explains why he was so creative in expanding his network through classified ads, business cards and the poster!

He went on to tell me about a local teacher that had asked him whether she could get her class to write to him - he, of course, agreed and said he is going to go and visit the children in the coming weeks, which he was greatly looking forward to.

I asked him what he had planned for the day and he said he was going for a minor hospital procedure that would keep him busy and that he needed to go and finish his breakfast! I apologised for interrupting his morning and he said, 'Oh Sarah, never apologise for being kind - thank you so much for reaching out.'

I am honestly filled with a warm glow to know that this man's life has been impacted so greatly by people across the world wanting to make a difference to his life. I'm not sharing this story with you for a 'pat on the back' - more to highlight the fact that we can ALL have a positive impact on each other's lives.

Why not knock on a particularly isolated neighbour's door with a portion of  soup one night (socially distanced of course) or maybe just give an older relative a phone call once a week instead of once every blue moon.

According to Age UK:

  • 500,000 people go at least 6 days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone
  • Nearly 4 million older people said that the TV is their main company
  • At least 1 million elderly people go for over a month without speaking to a friend.
If you would like to know more about contacting Tony, please get in touch with me and I will happily pass on his details.

 

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