As Valentine’s Day arrives on Sunday, the words serendipity, destiny and devotion would best describe how one Pahrump couple ended up meeting.
Dr. Tom Waters said several chance occurrences and encounters, along with the urging of a family member, was the catalyst of he and his wife Fe Armen Waters union, a marriage that is closing in on 19 years.
Waters, now a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, met his wife while stationed overseas at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.
At the time, Waters was chief of training on the island, while Fe worked as an administrative clerk in training at the Air Force’s training section.
“I was a major at the time and she was obviously a civilian working for the Air Force,” he said. “Because she was so good and I knew that she needed a promotion, I got a call from the legal office and they asked me if I would recommend her for a job in legal. I really did not want to lose her, but at the same time I never believed in getting in the way of anybody so I gave her a high recommendation and she transferred over to the legal office.”
When Waters was promoted to squadron commander, Fe and several others attended the Change of Command ritual. At the time, both were good friends, but not dating.
After a period of time, Waters said he returned to the states, but Fe stayed in the Philippines.
Two weeks later, Waters was transferred to the island of Guam, when he had a chance encounter with someone who looked vaguely familiar.
“I was at the airport, on the Island of Guam waiting for a person who was being transferred in,” he recalled. “I saw this woman who looked familiar, and she was looking at me and we were just staring at each other. She came over and called me Major Waters but now it was Colonel Waters. I gave her my card and told her I was stationed on the island. I asked her if she wanted to see the island because I wanted to show her around.”
Days later, Waters finally received the phone call he was hoping for.
“She told me that she knew that I went to church on Saturdays,” he said. “She also said she was interested in my religion and asked me if it was okay if she could go to church with me and I said sure. I started picking her up on Saturday mornings and taking her to church with me. After church, I would take her back to her cousin’s house.”
Soon thereafter, Waters said the church pastor told him Fe was interested in getting baptized.
“I told him that’s great and said I would try to be there,” he said. “They had the baptism scheduled, but I had to go to the island of Diego Garcia and got stranded. Because of that, I missed the baptism.”
Unbeknownst to Waters, Fe called off the baptism.
“When I arrived back in Guam, I called the pastor and ask him how the baptism went,” he said. “He told me she canceled it because I wasn’t there. I then wondered why my absence would make any difference in her getting baptized. Fe told me, since it was I that introduced her to the church, she wanted me to be there as her sponsor for the baptism. They rescheduled it, and she was baptized in the Pacific Ocean in a little cove right off the island of Guam.”
Waters then noted that his 13-year-old daughter came to visit him in Guam, where she got the chance to meet Fe.
“My daughter had also been in the Philippines with me for those four years so she had met her before but really didn’t know her until she arrived in Guam,” Waters said. “After I came back to the States and Fe went back to the Philippines again, my daughter said since you and mom are not going to get back together and you are divorced, you need somebody with you.”
Waters said his daughter told him that he needed someone to spend time with.
He began naming some of the women that he knew, but when Fe’s name came up, his daughter told him she would be a perfect match.
“After I rolled off several names, I eventually mentioned Fe,” he said. “My daughter told me she would be perfect for me and that’s when I began thinking about that. I have thought about her but I am older than she is and I’ve never really talked to her about being a boyfriend.”
After a phone conversation, Waters asked whether she was interested in changing their relationship.
Her initial reaction gave Waters cause for concern, as he was living in Maryland at the time.
“That’s when the phone went silent,” he said. “It terrified me because I’m a little older and that’s the first thing that hit me. I’m just sitting there and she still had not said anything. I asked her if she was still on the phone and she said yes. She also said she always wanted to find someone like me, but she just never thought it could be me.”
After untold phone calls and letter writing between the States and the Philippines, Waters finally ‘popped the question.’
“It was about two years of talking on the phone and writing letters that led to our marriage,” he said. “I asked her if she would be interested in coming to the states and if so, it would be on a 90-day fiancÃ© visa because I’m very interested. She said yes, she would be willing to come, but before anything else, I asked, ‘are you willing to marry me?’ and she said yes, so it will be 19 years on June 30th, after we met in the Philippines.”
Waters noted it was his daughter that helped both he and Fe find love, which he often points out from time to time.
“I have reminded my daughter of that several times and let her know how happy I am and how it has all worked out so very well,” he said. “At the time, I was retiring from the Air Force after 32 years.”
With the luxury of time and hindsight, Waters imparted some sage advice to would-be newlyweds and all couples.
“It would have to be communication,” he said. “Communication is the key. Over the years we’ve had some disagreements, but we have never had a fight. Fighting is just not in it for me.”
Additionally, Waters said he’s not exactly sure what kind of gift he will give to his wife on Valentine’s Day coming up on Sunday.
“Over the years I used to bring her candy, but because she says she doesn’t want to gain any weight, I stay away from the candy,” he said with a laugh. “Flowers don’t last long enough, so I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do for Valentine’s Day. Right now I have no idea what I’m going to do this year. I will have to figure out something though.”
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org