Making the most of second chances
Kathleen Green / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
January 31, 2010
Their young love was thwarted, but not this time
Twenty-two stone plaques line the wall of Bill and Patty Sutherlands Tuscany home. An engraved Grazie with a Roman numeral for each year of marriage reminds them just how grateful they are to be together.
And as each anniversary rolls by, Bill presents Patty with another plaque. They also make a point to look at the marriage license that hangs next to their bed in Italy. We turn it over and write a little note and renew for another year, she says. Its getting pretty full. We now have Post-it Notes on the back.
There was a time when Bill and Patty thought theyd never be together, much less be celebrating 22 years of marriage. They fell head over heels for each other as teenagers at Arlington High School in the early 60s.
There was a conflict between our parents that was unresolved and unexplained, says Patty, whose mother told her she couldnt date Bill. And so we were the fallout from that.
When Bill left for the University of Oklahoma in the fall of 1964, their relationship became even more difficult to maintain. We stayed in touch another year as best we could, says Bill, who went on to have a lucrative real estate business. I couldnt even write letters to her home. Shed find a pay phone and call me. We couldnt do anything together. After a while, it forced us apart.
Patty Kenyon graduated from high school in 1965 and married shortly thereafter. Bill moved back to Arlington and married in 1968. Patty had two sons (Todd and Matthew) and Bill had two daughters (Shelby and Eden), all within five years. Even as Pattys marriage dissolved, she had no illusions that she would ever be with Bill
I was so entrenched in how I was going to make it to the end of the day every day, raising two kids, says Patty, who spent her days designing and painting wall graphics. As for dreams of reuniting, After a while, youve got to let it go.
But when she needed money for her sons soccer trip, she kept one gold charm before selling the rest of her charm bracelet. She couldnt part with the charm Bill gave her for her 16th birthday. While Patty held on to memories but had let go of any thoughts of a future with Bill, he says he thought about her every day.
Imagine Bills surprise when he ran into Patty with his neighbor at a downtown Fort Worth art festival in the spring of 1986. Patty had no idea her friend was Bills neighbor or that Bill was just days away from being officially divorced. The neighbor asked Bill if he knew Patty. Im standing there turning white, says Patty, now 62. I was just dumbfounded.
When the mutual friend suggested that Bill join them for lunch, he was enthusiastic. Even Bills younger daughter, who was with him that day, knew there was something special there. We got ready to leave, and my youngest got in the car and looked at me and said, You know, Daddy, as soon as you get divorced you need to call that woman. I just laughed. I will. Dont worry about that, says Bill, 63.
Bill wasted no time. He proposed to Patty on their first date, then again every day for the next year. On Sept. 19, 1987, Bill and Patty tied the knot in an Arlington home they had admired as teens and dreamed about living in someday.
They are still amazed how life has turned out. Bill even took that gold charm and had it made into a pinky ring for Patty so she can wear it again. And in 1998, Bill and Patty bought an old farmhouse in Italy where they now run Tuscan Women Cook (www.tuscanwomencook.com), a weeklong cooking school for vacationers.
We both got married so young that wed never had the big adventure, says Patty. We just said, This is our chance. If we dont do this now, it probably isnt going to happen.
When not running their cooking school, Bill and Patty return the rest of the year to the Dallas area, where they first fell in love.
If a kid came in today to say they were in love at 15, Id believe them, Bill says.
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