Tony Williams, 75, said he often goes for days without speaking to anyone after his wife Jo, also 75, passed away in May. But his loneliness may soon be ending. After his heartbreaking story made headlines earlier this week, dozens of strangers have called and his inbox began bursting with friend requests.
The retired physicist has no children and he said earlier that he often sits at home willing the phone to ring, "but it never does." He said he feels "cursed" by loneliness.
Without any family nearby, Williams put two ads in his local newspaper in Alton, East Hampshire, looking for a friend to chat with, but didn't get any replies.
So, in a bid to find a pal to listen to music with or sit in the garden alongside, he had business cards made, to hand out when he went to the supermarket or out for a walk.
Williams handed out dozens without receiving a call back, so has now put a poster up in his window asking for pals.
“It’s my last resort. I’ve tried everything to make friends, but it feels like nobody wants to talk to me,” he said. “Not very many people pass my house, but I was hoping it would spread around the community, and someone might reach out.”
“Jo was my best friend and we had a lovely life. But now I’m all by myself. My wonderful wife has just died, and I have nobody. All I want is for somebody to see the sign and phone me up.”
“I’m not looking for someone to listen to me cry — I just want a normal person who I can chat to. I can talk to anybody about anything,” Williams said.
He met Jo, a legal secretary, in a bar more than 35 years ago, and their marriage was "perfect harmony".
The couple were unable to have any children, and have lived in Kempley, in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England, for 25 years.
“Our relationship was always so natural. We had no secrets and we could be totally open with each other. We really were soul mates,” he said.
"Back in Kempley, we both used to get in every evening from work and cook together — with me doing one job and her another — then we’d put it together at the end," he remembered. “Sometimes we’d spend hours cooking, laughing and listening to music together. It was the highlight of our day. We also had a huge, beautiful garden with an orchard. In the summer months, I’d do the gardening, and Jo would come and sit outside with me. Everything was just perfect.”
They moved to near Alton last year so Jo could be closer to her sister, Beryl, 73. But Jo fell ill with what turned out to be pancreatic cancer, shortly after they moved, and died suddenly, just nine days after the diagnosis.
Jo passed away at home with her husband by her side, and Williams said he has lived in near silence ever since.
“Now I’m here, completely alone, in the house where my lovely wife spent her dying days,” the man said. “Every time I walk in the room, the first thing I do is look at her photograph.”
Williams’ neighbors said they have offered to help him, but he told them he's seeking a friend his own age to pass the time.
Hence the sign he put in his window last week.
"I have lost Jo, my lovely wife and soul mate," the sign reads. "I have no friends and nobody to talk to. I find the unremitting silence 24-hours-a-day unbearable torture. Can nobody help me?"
Williams said he isn't close to his late wife's family, and his own three siblings live far away.
"I just want a friend, and I hope my sign will find someone for me,” he added.
This story was originally published by South West News Service.