She noticed the handsome football player with the friendly smile at Anacortes High School. Faye Asseln recalled, “I had a little crush on him and said to myself, ‘Someday I’d like to meet somebody like him.’ ”
He noticed her, too. “She hung on to the walls to get to class,” said Bill Asseln.
Faye was born with cerebral palsy. Her mother was told she wouldn’t live beyond her fifth birthday, but Faye proved to be a fighter. She had to cling to the walls at school because she didn’t have a walker or a cane. She said, “Would you believe it? I was never late to class.”
Although they’d noticed each other, it would take 55 years for their love story to unfold.
After graduating in 1957, Bill went to Bible college and married a girl he met there. Faye stayed in Anacortes, married and had a son. Her marriage ended shortly thereafter.
“It wasn’t good,” she said.
She remarried 10 years later, eventually moving to Spokane. Faye said, “We were married for 36 years before he died of cancer six years ago.”
Bill and his wife had four children and were married 43 years, before she died nine years ago.
As their 55th high school reunion approached last September, Faye almost didn’t go. “A friend talked me into it,” she said.
Bill however, was looking forward to reconnecting with a girl he’d known in high school. After nine years alone, he longed for a partner.
Faye noticed him right away. “He was sitting with a woman and I said to myself, ‘I sure wish I was sitting with him!’ ”
The next day at the class picnic Bill handed out cards. He’d had the cards printed with the words “Your Friend” and his name and phone number on the front to give to homeless people he encountered.
The back of the card read “Everybody goes through hard times. We just need to be there for each other when it happens.”
Faye asked him for one.
When she returned to Spokane, she plucked up her courage and gave him a call. “I was brave,” she said, smiling. “I called and asked him about a new book on Anacortes I’d heard about.”
As he hung up the phone Bill wondered why she’d called him about the book. He knew she had many friends in Anacortes.
And while he wondered, he went out and bought the book and sent it to Faye as a gift. A few minutes of conversation at the reunion with the woman he’d hoped to reconnect with was enough for him to know she wasn’t the one for him. And Faye had called….
“I sent the book with a letter telling her how I’d felt about going to the reunion,” Bill said. “About wanting to be close to someone again. When I got ready to send the letter, I felt like God was speaking to me – Look at the heart, not the outward appearance.”
Thrilled with the book and the letter, Faye immediately replied.
Letters gave way to phone calls. “I bought her a cellphone, sent it to her and added her to my account,” said Bill.
She looked forward to their chats. “Every day he called!”
They talked about everything under the sun and when conversation lagged, they shared daily Bible readings. “I felt like God spoke to me and said, ‘He’s the one,’ ” Faye recalled.
On March 11, her birthday, Faye went to Anacortes to meet Bill’s 96-year-old mother, and other family members. Bill said, “Our first date lasted about four or five days!”
Faye’s eyes sparkled as she recalled that visit. “He took me out to a romantic dinner at an oceanside restaurant.”
She also discovered Bill is an excellent cook. He prepared dinner for their extended family, including Faye’s son and his wife.
There was no formal proposal. Bill said, “We just grew into it and started making plans.” His family expressed some concerns. “I’m very active and she’s handicapped,” he explained. But the couple’s evident happiness mitigated their worries.
“She’s got a very loving spirit,” Bill said.
On May 11, the couple wed in Anacortes. The wedding didn’t go off without a hitch. Faye’s son was to give her away and his wife planned to sing, but they were delayed by a traffic accident on the freeway. They arrived at the tail end of the ceremony, and Faye’s daughter-in-law got to sing.
Bill joined his bride in Spokane, and after two months of marriage, the couple still sports the telltale newlywed glow. “This is a wonderful man,” Faye said, smiling into Bill’s eyes. “I feel like our prayers were answered.”