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A deep and abiding love reunited

Valentine's Day 2017

A deep and abiding love reunited

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POSTED February 15, 2017 12:40 p.m.

Pauline Stockton’s face is rapt, watching husband Bill closely as he strums his guitar. As he begins to sing, he casts quick glances to his wife throughout the song. Their faces light up each time their eyes meet.

 

Look at us
After all these years together
Look at us
After all that we've been through
Look at us
Still leaning on each other

 

If you want to see
How true love should be
Then just look at us

 

The words are by Vince Gill, but the song belongs no less to these two, who found each other again after 45 years apart.

Pauline and Bill had been married to each other before, in 1968. Amicably divorced, they each went on to build new lives. For 45 years, they neither spoke to nor wrote to the other. Any thoughts they had of the other were just that, thoughts they kept to themselves. Until just a few years ago…

 

Look at you
Still pretty as a picture
Look at me
Still crazy over you

Look at us
Still believing in forever

 

If you want to see
How true love should be
Then just look at us

 

They met at a restaurant-bar at Paddock Lake near Kenosha those many years ago, the young widow with four children at home and the divorced father of two, a Navy man.

Pauline, taking a well-deserved holiday, was visiting family in the area. She had gone with her cousin for a bite to eat.

Bill put money into the jukebox and asked her to dance. That dance was followed by another and another as Bill continued to feed the jukebox and ask for Pauline’s company on the dance floor. When it was time to go, he asked to see her again.

Love called and was answered. The two married and lived in Madison. They raised their children together. Bill played music with the Rice family at area establishments. They did all the things a young couple do as they build a life together.

But Bill was a Navy man and the Navy had plans of its own, which would involve uprooting the family and moving them to the East Coast.

“We had too many kids to move across the country and change things up,” Pauline says, as Bill nods his agreement.

They parted ways without hard feelings. Practicality and parenting were put first. Each went on to build new lives.

Pauline came back to Boscobel with her new husband, where they operated the drive through restaurant. Some years later, they headed to the Florida Keys and took up commercial fishing. Eventually, she returned to the area to be near family.

Bill too remarried. Eventually, he retired from the Navy, a twenty-year man. He took up driving truck. He and his wife settled in Tampa, Florida.

Children were raised. Grandchildren born. Life went on. Pauline’s husband passed away after 40 years of marriage. Bill’s wife sickened and he became the one to care for her in her decline.

And they still thought of each other at times, but never sought each other out.

 

In a hundred years from now
I know without a doubt
They’ll all look back and wonder how
We made it all work out

 

Chances are

We’ll go down in history

When they want to see

How true love should be
Then just look at us

         (Song by Vince Gill)

 

It was three years after the death of her third husband. Pauline found herself again thinking of Bill Stockton. He still occupied a tender place in her heart. She mentioned him to her daughter Kim (Trumm), wondering, “What ever happened to Bill?”

Kim took the initiative and began looking for him. If she found him and he didn’t want to speak to her mother, she would end the search and her mother would never know she had found Bill. She found him, one of over 100 William Stocktons, and he did want to speak to her mother.

“I didn’t do much thinking about it,” Bill says of his answer when Kim called. “I had been wondering over the years how she was.”

That first call lasted close to an hour, during which Bill declared, “I loved you then, I love you now, and I always will.”

They didn’t talk too often after that first phone call. Just the occasional phone call to keep abreast of each other's life.

Bill nursed his wife through her final days.

Both continued on with the lives built apart, she in Wisconsin, he in Florida, separated by half a continent.

And the phone calls became more frequent, until they were talking every day.

Then, two years after the first phone call, they both found themselves a bit closer in terms of physical proximity. Bill was flying out to Washington for his granddaughter’s high school graduation. Around the same time, Pauline was going to Montana to visit family. She suggested Bill fly in to Missoula and drive back to Wisconsin with her.

“Why not,” Bill replied.

He arrived at the airport in a cowboy hat, carrying the guitar she had given him nearly 46 years earlier as a Christmas present.

They have been together since. They spent that first winter in Florida, returning the following year and marrying surrounded by family, attended by their children, the ceremony conducted by his stepson. And he sang to her, as he often does, choosing the song that helps tell the story of their love.

 

With this ring I Thee wed an angel here beside me,

A moment more and heaven will be mine…

(Song Hank Snow)

 

Bill Stockton is a romantic and affectionate man. He met his match in Pauline.

“I think it’s prayers answered,” Pauline says of their renewed union. “God put us back together.”

The two sit holding hands and smiling to each other, aglow with love. And on her hand gleams a ring Bill gave her once before, and again a year ago, forever.

 

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