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  • Writer's pictureTopsail Times

Not A Mail Order Bride

I'm sure couples that have fallen in love have a great story to tell how they met and fell in love. Well, ours is unique. We want to share our story - it's almost Valentine’s day - why not?

It all started with a letter.

It's 1986. I was living in Raleigh. While at work, a co-worker and I were discussing my love life, or lack thereof. She told me about a friend of her husband who was in the military stationed in Germany on his first overseas tour. He joined the Army in 1984. He was single and I was single. She asked me if she could send him my address. I said, “why not. I might get a pen pal out of it.” Several weeks later, I received a letter from Germany; it was from that guy: Sam Harris. I was so excited and surprised. I couldn’t wait to read the letter. I stood out in the driveway and read it: “Hi, I have never introduced myself in a letter, but here it goes.”

The very next day, I wrote Sam a letter back. “I have never introduced myself in a letter either, but I will try.” I eagerly waited for the next letter to arrive. My heart would be pounding loudly with every letter I received. I couldn’t wait to read what was next. As the weeks went by, the letters came more often and we became more and more interested in each other. We even sent each other pictures of ourselves. He asked me for my phone number at the end of one letter. I thought to myself, “this guy is not going to call all the way from Germany.” But, I was wrong. He called at 6:00 am one morning. Now, I am not an early riser, but the phone rang on a Tuesday morning and my mother answered the phone. She said, “Sam who?” I suddenly leapt out of bed and my feet never touched the floor as I ran down the hall to the living room. I couldn’t believe I was actually talking to this guy. We talked for an hour. It cost him $80 American dollars for that phone call. He had to pause from time to time to insert coins into the phone. This was 1986. There were no cell phones, only pay phones to make calls other than landline phones.

Fast forward to 1987. We continued to correspond and call one another. As the months went by, we fell in love. He even proposed to me in a letter. I said, “YES.” He began to prepare to come to NC to visit family but also “stop by” to meet me. He earned 30 days leave to come to the United States. So, on August 17, 1987 - his birthday - he left Germany and flew into Raleigh/Durham Airport. I met him at the airport to pick him up. As I was nervously and anxiously waiting for him to come through those doors after getting off the plane, I found out he was purposely waiting to be the last person off the plane because I kept asking people that were coming through the waiting area if there was a guy in an Army uniform on the plane. Several people responded with, “Yes, he’s purposely waiting to be the last one off the plane.” Finally, he came through the doors and I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so nervous and excited and happy at the same time. My heart was beating so fast, I felt like it was going to come out of my chest. We hugged for what seemed several minutes. We just couldn’t let go. I think I even cried a little bit. Our emotions were on a high that day. I knew at that point, that was it, I am marrying this guy!!

So, he did officially propose to me. We were at my townhouse and he proposed on the back deck, however; I feel the official proposal was when we were at Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh in my car in the parking lot when he pulled out a diamond ring. I was shocked because we had agreed not to get one since money was tight. We just discussed getting wedding bands. He wanted to get me a large diamond, but got a smaller one and he said, “This diamond may be small, but it screams, I love you.”

Just days later we were planning for our big day. We got our wedding together in just one week. Yes, I said, just one week. Sam wore his dress green uniform. I wore my mother’s wedding dress. My grandmother made my mother’s wedding dress for her wedding so I wanted to make sure I wore her dress. We borrowed chairs, punch bowls, lace tablecloths and cake pans from the church I was attending at that time. The pastor that married us was my pastor from my childhood - Pastor Randy Cox. My sister, Kim, was my maid of honor and my brother, Jon, was the usher and the best man. The bouquet I had was the one I caught at my best friend’s wedding the year before and I just added flowers to it to make it my own. All the music was pre-recorded on a cassette tape. Our wedding was outside at my parents house on a hot summer day - August 29, 1987.

We had our honeymoon in Virginia Beach, Virginia and Busch Gardens. One week after we returned, Sam left to go back to Germany. I had to wait a month to join him and we wrote each other letters during that time. I had the opportunity to have lived in Germany with him for the last 8 months of his tour. He then re-enlisted and we headed for Fort Rucker, Alabama in May 1988. Our son, Samuel, was born, May 1989. We were stationed at Fort Rucker until 1990 when Sam’s unit received orders to go to Saudi Arabia for the Desert Shield/Desert Storm campaign. We wrote letters during that time as well. He returned in April 1991 to Fort Rucker. We moved back to North Carolina. In 1992, Sam joined the Army National Guard. We lived in Knightdale, NC for 3 years before moving to Zebulon in 1994, the same year our daughter, Patti, was born. Sam served 18 and a half years full time in the National Guard before retiring in 2010.

In 2016, we moved to Holly Ridge when Sam accepted a job with the NCDOT in Castle Hayne in 2015. I accepted a job as an administrative assistant at Topsail Sound RV Park in Holly Ridge. We lived at the park for 6 years. In 2018 we purchased a piece of property off of Hardison Road. Sam retired from the NCDOT in 2021 after seven years of employment.In April of 2022, we began building a house on our property. We moved into our new house on November 4.

We daily give God honor and praise for bringing us together the way He did and that He has blessed us with 35 years together and still going strong. Love stories develop in different ways, but our love story started with a letter - who knew?


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