GEORGE Watkins, one of Stalybridge’s oldest residents, has died aged 103.
Remarkably, George lived on his own on Forrester Drive until two years ago when he moved to Fir Trees Care Home, Dukinfield, where he died.
George remained a parishioner at Holy Trinity until moving to the care home and was well-known in the town riding his electric scooter.
“He was like Lewis Hamilton as he sped around Tesco and you got in his way at your peril,” joked only child Paul.
George, who had a distinguished military career in the Second World War, was heavily involved at Holy Trinity, passionate about Stalybridge Celtic and rarely missed a match, was a keen painter and wrote poetry.
Shortly before his 100th birthday, George recited one of his pieces of work ‘Beauty’ at Tameside Armed Services Community’s Armed Services Day in Denton.
“Dad filled every second of his 103 years and never wasted a moment,” added Paul.
When former soldier George visited Civic Mayor of Tameside Cllr Philip Fitzpatrick to mark his 100th birthday in April 2017, he had no idea of the surprise that was waiting for him.
Tameside Armed Services Community had arranged for the Manchester Artillery to bring a 105mm gun from Belle Vue Barracks.
Cllr Fitzpatrick said of the visit: “I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Mr Watkins. I’ve visited several 100-year-olds in my time as mayor but this is the first time a 100-year-old has been in to the parlour at Dukinfield Town Hall to see me.
“Mr Watkins is in incredible shape for his age and it was an honour and a pleasure to have afternoon tea with him and his family.”
During the war George, who was called up aged 19, served as a corporal in the Royal Army Service Corps. He was a driver with Montgomery’s Eighth Army in North Africa and Italy, transporting fuel to the frontline troops and often finding himself under enemy fire. His deeds earned a mention in dispatches.
George, who lived in Stalybridge all his life, was a former pupil at St Paul’s Primary and West Hill High School which he left aged 14 to become a lather boy in a barber’s.
He later worked as a cabinet maker and at a petrol station in Ashton with that experience being key to him being in charge of the petrol supplies to frontline troops.
Paul added while serving in Italy he learned the language and even kept a diary which was written in Italian.
After returning home, George became a local government officer with Stalybridge and Droylsden Councils and later worked for the NHS in Manchester and latterly in the treasurer’s department at Tameside Hospital before he took early retirement.
A widower after 65 years of marriage to Nelly, who died in 2009, George was a regular member of the congregation at Holy Trinity Church at 100 years of age. Incredibly, five generations of George’s family have worshipped at the church.
He was also a lifelong supporter of Stalybridge Celtic and visited Bower Fold to mark his 100th birthday to watch their National League North win against AFC Fylde.
George leaves son Paul, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.