Valdosta Daily Times

November 4, 2012

Devoted friends ... in sickness and in health

Elizabeth Butler
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — A former English tour guide, who formed a friendship with a Nashville, Ga., woman when she traveled abroad, came here to take care of her when she had breast cancer surgery.

But six days after arriving here on Sept. 13, Kenneth Ainge of Stafford, England, suffered a stroke, and his devoted friend, Wanda Nash, has been by his side at South Georgia Medical Center ever since.

“I’m doing fine,” Ainge said. “I’m amazed at my recovery. The staff here is so good and so very patient with me.”

Nash, who recently moved to Hahira to be closer to her church, Hahira United Methodist, said, “(Ken) came over to take care of me. I just had a mastectomy on Oct. 4. I’m still trying to recover. I will still have to have chemo and radiation.”

Nash praised Dr. Harvey Miller for his persistence in having a biopsy done in September, even after her mammogram and ultrasound had come back normal.

She encouraged women to be careful about breast cancer.

“It’s a sneaky thing,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ainge has been in SGMC’s in-patient rehab unit.

“(Ken’s) got them all charmed,” Nash said of the staff there. “He’s such a charmer.”

The Englishman and American have enjoyed a friendship of 11 years, meeting in May 2001. A widow for 12 years, Nash said she had always wanted to travel after retiring from Amoco Fabrics in Atlanta and Nashville as a customer service representative.

“He was my first travel tour guide outside the U.S.,” she said. “It was quite memorable.”

Nash was one of 31 participants in a 2001 travel tour called “Murder Most British” as they were given clues to try to solve a “murder.” It was quite appropriate for Ainge to lead the tour since he had been a “bobby” (policeman) for 30 years, retiring as superintendent (the equivalent of captain in the U.S.).

“I was able to explain everything about a murder to my clients,” Ainge said.

The Englishman said he was also a former force press liaison officer representing the Central Office of Information which acted on behalf of Buckingham Palace.

“I was the press officer for Princess Diana on three occasions when she came to our county of Staffordshire,” he said. “I let the press get the pictures they wanted of Her Royal Majesty. Diana was lovely.”

Ainge said he never actually talked to the princess because English protocol dictates that royals must not be spoken to unless they speak first; neither should they ever be touched.

After retiring from the police department, Ainge began his own travel business. The Englishman and Nash became friends during the 2001 travel tour.

“We ... keep in touch with cards and letters,” she said.

About three years ago after Ainge had a liver transplant and spent nine months recovering, he invited her to England, and she went on tours around England, Scotland and Wales with him.

Last December, Ainge flew across the Big Pond and visited Nash, staying for Christmas and New Year’s.

“We did several tours around Florida, Tennessee and the Caribbean,” she said.

Although these two are devoted friends, don’t look for him to pop the question.

“I like my space,” said the Englishman, who is divorced.

“With our health issues, it would be pretty much out of the question,” Nash said. “We are into our healthcare systems.

“We are just wonderful travel friends. We love to see the world and different cultures and civilizations.”

Ainge is scheduled to fly home with a nurse this weekend, where he will be welcomed by his daughters, Julie Wise of Stafford and Claire Ainge of Cheltenham (who is expected twin boys), and his grandchildren, George and Eleanor Wise.