99-year-old Abbas Mehrnoosh met his wife Hannah, 65, more than 40 years ago at a wedding.
He was a member of the Bahá’í Faith, and he fell in love with an orthodox Jew who was less than half his age and set to be married to a Jewish man.
The daughter of a Rabbi, Hannah’s parents believed it was going against her religion to marry Abbas.
She said: “But I became ill, nobody gave me a hope, there really wasn’t anything for me until Abbas gave me hope.
“My father let me marry him because he thought it was the hope Abbas gave me that got me through the operations.”
They were married four years after meeting and for 38 years have been living happily together on Lucastes Avenue in Haywards Heath.
Hannah said: “It’s amazing because I was from a Jewish family and there’s the age gap, but he was so energetic I had no idea how old he was, he was always up at 5 and working until 11.”
Her brother had joined the Bahá’í Faith, a progressive religion that promotes equality and world peace, and married a Persian Bahá’í woman causing divisions in her family.
Hannah explained: “Me and Abbas became friends at the wedding. Abbas brought our family back together, all of our friends love and respect him. He is very wise and very knowledgeable, people come to him for counsel and advice, I can’t tell you how kind and generous he is.
“Little by little I spoke to my father about him, my father wanted to spend time him. Me and Abbas had become very good friends and then fell in love.”
Abbas, who was born in Iran, has lived and worked in Spain, Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria, Turkey, Germany, Sweden, Holland and Australia.
He travelled the world spreading word of their faith and way of life.
He said: “From five years old I was working, I helped my mother with the animals, it was my first business at five years old, at seven I was at school. After school I helped my father with the cotton wool business, analyse it, make it, sell it.”
By the age of 14 he owned a haberdashery in the village he grew up in, Qazvin.
He has lived by the principle that ‘work is a worship’, and run import and export businesses in cotton wool, candy floss machines, mosaics, carpets and marbles.
He built a five story building in Iran with shops, offices and apartments.
“I lost more than £20 million on properties confiscated in the revolution,” Abbas explained.
Hannah added: “He lost a lot, he was devastated, it was his whole life, we didn’t have anything.”
But the pair built a new life for themselves, going on to own a hotel in Hove, which they turned into flats.
Later in life Abbas tried his hand at bee keeping.
His wife said: “He was still climbing trees at 85 dealing with swarms of bees!”
Abbas added: “I used to have 20 hives, It was very good being a bee keeper, I was a strong man, I was at the top of the tree in my garden 20 years ago.”
He puts his good health throughout life largely down to honey and yoghurt.
“He’s had a healthy life, never smoked, drank alcohol, taken drugs. Everything is fresh and home made, nothing is bought,” his wife explained.
“Honey and yoghurt, that’s what he says, honey, yoghurt herbs and veg. And he has never walked anywhere, always ran. Everything is in a hurry.”
Abbas, who turns 100 on September 19, has had health problems since a heart attack three years ago.
“He’s had a stroke and heart attack, words won’t come out, it’s in his memory but it won’t come out, it’s very hard,” Hannah said.
They are planning a garden party complete with Persian food to celebrate his birthday.
Abbas has been an active member of the community since moving to England 60 years ago.
Hannah said: “He puts other people first, people turn up unexpectedly with such problems. When we were first in Haywards Heath we put a letter through the houses in Lucastes Avenue, Lucastes road, Lucates Lane, inviting people to tea. 100 people came, and from that people came for advice about marriage, schooling, finance, they would come and see us. Six months later we had another tea party and 150 people came. Our house always has an open door.”