‘The gentleman’ of Grantham, Leslie Gorton, sadly passed away last Thursday at the age of 93.
A much-loved member of the community, Leslie was known for always being immaculately dressed, and a refined appearance matched by his manners.
“To ladies he would always raise his hat and open doors,” says his wife Joan. Yet to her he was completed devoted. “To every person we met he’d introduce me as his darling, precious wife.”
She adds: “I have never, in all my 84 years, known a man so polite, so loving - everytime he went out he bought me a little gift, whether that be a bar of chocolate, a bunch of flowers, a necklace or earrings. He was the kindest, most generous man.”
It was 29 years ago that Leslie and Joan met, in what can truly be called a whirlwind romance. Both retired and living in Tenerife, Joan was a widow and Leslie divorced. They were introduced by a friend when Joan needed a phone to arrange the sale of her house, and Leslie was one of the few back then who had his own.
She remembers: “The minute I looked at him I thought ‘what a nice fella!’” It was instant for Leslie too. They met on a Saturday. By the following Thursday he had asked Joan to marry him.
The couple returned to England and six months later, on April 25, 1987, they wed and began life in Lytham St Annes. Since then they have lived in Eastbourne and Market Deeping, before moving to Grantham about 20 years ago to be closer to Joan’s daughter Jeanette, who Leslie very much saw as his own.
From his first marriage Leslie has two sons, David and Peter, who each have three children. He himself was the second of four children, born in Didsbury and christened Clarence Leslie Gorton, but always known as Leslie. He started his first job doing a milkround aged just 10, and worked at Smithfield Market.
In 1939 he joined the Royal Army Service Corps, and as part of the transport division had an integral role in the Normandy landings.
“He drove up the beach in a lorry loaded with amunition - if anything had hit him he’d have gone sky high, but he never got a scratch. The only thing that bothered him was that he always felt travel sick!’ relates Joan.
Over 33 years he rose from private to Captain, and travelled to 52 countries. His main job on leaving the army was with Wandsworth Council, providing transport for disabled children.
Leslie then became an online hit in 2012, when a photo of the smartly dressed war veteran with his many medals, out selling poppies with the Royal British Legion at the Isaac Newton Centre, received 108,000 likes on Facebook.
“He was an officer and a gentleman - and he really was a gentleman,” adds Joan. He will be laid to rest covered by a union flag at Grantham Cemetery next Friday, from 2pm, at a joint plot in accordance with his last words to Joan - a request that they lay: ‘side by side’.