PINK HILL, N.C. — The lonely waters for a U.S. Navy sailor in the Vietnam War were traded for a life full of adventure, art and amore — the most everlasting of sorts.
During the war, he had no one to write to. However, his shipmate had sisters galore, and gave Bill Stevenson the name and address to one of them.
Her name was Rebecca.
For eight long months, Bill, an Arkansas native, wrote letters, sent postcards and mailed trinkets to Rebecca.
She became his wife only five days after they’d met in person for the very first time. He had already asked for her hand in marriage in an unforgettable letter before he got there.
The wedding was held March 24, 1964, a Wednesday. Forty-eight years later, the beautiful couple stands together as blissful from the moment they met.
After years of traveling the world during Bill’s 26-year Navy stint, they eventually moseyed down to their Pink Hill home for retirement in 1982. They’re still very active in the community.
“We do everything together,” Rebecca Stevenson said. “If you get married first and then live together, you learn to grow in your love for each other.”
They sat on their couch Wednesday and danced around the memories of their military adventures in California, Maine, Italy and Cuba — from their two children sleeping in a closeted bunk bed to hearing oversized spiders walk around their Japan cabinet. Their home is filled with cabinets of trinkets they’ve collected from their immense travels.
Rebecca laughed when she said her husband married her to get a pay raise.
“That’s one of our jokes,” she said.
She remembered the first letter she got from him came after she looked up and prayed for a way to stop picking tobacco seeds, which made her hands clammy and sore — and then, her mom sent her to fetch the mail.
“Honest to goodness, a silver lining came around that cloud,” she recalled. “I opened the mailbox and thought the (letter) was from my brother, and I looked again and it was from William Charles Stevenson and it was addressed to me. I think God answered my prayer that day, and I’ve felt the same way ever since.”
When Bill came to her family’s house for the first time, he said he got support from her large-numbered family.
“There were so many people in that house,” he said.
Rebecca’s mother knew about their love affair all the while, so she strategically sent them out to the back.
“Mom sent us out to the chicken house to gather some chicken eggs for breakfast, and Bill kissed me,” she said. “That was the first time I’d ever been kissed because my daddy never let me go on a date. … I really liked that kiss.”
That inaugural kiss felt a lot like the same lip lock they shared in their kitchen Wednesday.
“If you see something you want today, you better take it because it might not be there in the morning,” Bill said. “So 48 years ago, I seen it, I took it, I still got it and I like it. In 1964, God brought a special person for me, and it was her.”
The couple is active in the community, participating in extracurricular church groups and various arts and crafts activities. They created heart lanterns to hang on their neighbors’ doors, and Bill paints pictures that are hung up on the pair’s walls.
In fact, he used to trade for art and figurines, which are still in the house. Everything the Stevensons do, they do together.
“I think we became good friends in those letters because I could tell him things that I couldn’t discuss with other people,” Rebecca said, as Bill seconded. “We would write back and forth what was on our hearts and what was on our minds.”
For them, the togetherness has been the glue of their endurance that brought them around the world to settle on 13 acres of land in Pink Hill.
“If you don’t do things together, sooner or later, you’re going to grow apart,” Bill said. “Love is being together.”