Ton up for Don

In her latest column about The Mill, Helen Bigham gets ready to throw a big birthday bash

Donald 'Don' Campbell

Walthamstow resident Andrew Donald ‘Don’ Campbell is celebrating his 100th birthday this month

The Mill does like to host a good party; exhibition launches, children’s birthdays, Star Wars Day, or my favourite, Apple Day.

The list is varied but it always about getting the community together and having some fun. Plus, there’s the benefit of being home from home without the mess.

This month we’re hosting a very special event for a born-and-bred Walthamstow resident, Andrew Donald Campbell, who will be celebrating his 100th birthday! On Sunday 15th April we’ll have an afternoon tea party for him at The Mill.

Known locally as ‘old Don’ and described as ‘a true gentleman’ he is one of eight children, with five sisters and two brothers. He did an engineering apprenticeship aged 14, working alongside father George, and during the Second World War worked at an ammunitions factory, before taking a job at the Royal Mint at the Tower of London in the 1950s. After retirement he offered technician support in engineering classes at George Monoux School.

A widower – sadly his wife Doris passed away in 2004 – Don still likes to get out and about most days. He can often be seen walking past our window on his way to collect his fresh veg from the market, often managing to walk up to a mile. Don often enjoys visits from his son Alan, friends, and neighbours who pop in for a cuppa, biscuit and to reminisce.

While The Mill might not match up to his fond memories of E17 dance halls, we’ll put on a great birthday spread, with a lot of love in the room!

My own mum is 81 in April and like Donald is still a fit and active member of the community. For me what these two inspirational people have in common is that they don’t shut themselves away. Most people will feel lonely at some point in their lives. I know I did when I first became a parent. But for a growing number of people, particularly those in later life, loneliness can define their lives and have a significant impact on their wellbeing.

Not having someone to talk to regularly can be isolating, particularly if you’re used to sharing your home and time with others. Age UK runs a free telephone befriending service for matching volunteers with older people.

The Mill hosts a range of activities that help people make new connections – knitting, book clubs, Scrabble, gardening. Maybe you’ve got your own idea for a group? Taking a first step to make new friendships can be daunting, but with a nod to George Bernard Shaw, what Don and my mum show is that we don’t stop partying because we grow old, we grow old because we stop partying.

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