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By Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

GLOUCESTER, England — A woman in the United Kingdom is preparing to marry the homeless man she used to watch digging through a trash bin for scraps near her book shop 40 years ago,The Guardian reported.

When Joan Neininger saw Ken Selway rummaging through the trash near her store in Gloucester, she began to leave wrapped sandwiches for the man. That act of kindness blossomed into a friendship that has lasted for decades. Now in their late 80s, the couple is living together at a residential home and has decided to marry.

“When I saw him ferreting through the bins outside a fish and chip shop near my bookshop, I never thought for a minute it would end like this,” Neininger told The Guardian. “But although he was living on the streets, I knew straight away that Ken was a lovely man with a beautiful soul. The man haunted me like a specter. The first time I saw him searching for food in a rubbish bin, I silently broke my heart.”

Neininger tried to give Selway money, but he refused. She did persuade him to join her and her husband, Norman, for a meal.

Selway was born in London and was evacuated to Wales during World War II, where he worked in the coal mines, The Guardian reported. When he returned to London, his mother said she could not cope with his growing mental health problems, The Guardian reported.

Selway began to sleep in railway stations and shop doorways until he came to Gloucester.

Over the next few years, Selway drifted in and out of the lives of Neininger and her husband. At one point, Norman issued an ultimatum and his wife moved out into a caravan that Selway would come to stay in though their relationship was, and has remained, celibate.

The three – husband and wife plus Selway – found a way of getting along. “I married at 16 and Norman was a wonderful man and a lovely husband and father,” Neininger told The Guardian. “Because there was no sexual jealousy it was fine and Ken and Norman were like brothers. It was like a little paradise – just Ken, Norman and me.”

After Norman died, Selway developed health problems and moved into a home, where he was later joined by Neininger.

Selway insisted his wife-to-be had saved him. He said: “When I met Joan I was sleeping rough and wanted to kill myself,” he told The Guardian. “I probably would not be here now if it wasn’t for her leaving those sandwiches in the bin. She’s a really kind person.”