Boxer Love Story: Carolyn (Kennedy) Williams '71 and Bill Williams '73

In 1971, during Carolyn’s fifth and final year at Pacific University, and the time of her most focused concentration on her elementary teacher preparation, she met the treasure of her life, Bill Rhys Williams, a ranch boy from southern Idaho.

It all started with Carolyn’s choice of activity on Friday and Saturday nights.

“You see, I worked at the campus switchboard with the motive of being tied up and not dateable,” said Carolyn.

One fortunate day, however, Carolyn ran into the library to inform her “very short and safe friend” who was her handball partner, Keith Burkhart, that she needed to change their routine game time that week. Bill, a student who Carolyn said “appeared to have a unique confidence and yet humble spirit,” was sitting with Keith.

“Under that clinic jacket, horned rimmed glasses, and the appendage of a briefcase (with which normal Optometry students set themselves apart), I knew from the get go that I had a desire to get to know him better,” said Carolyn.

Carolyn and Bill were then introduced, and regarding the changed handball time, she said to Bill, “You come too!”

So, when Carolyn and Keith next played, she was surprised that Bill was at the gym, standing above them in the observation area with a basketball tucked under his arm. After several minutes, Carolyn wondered who he was watching, Keith or her? Keith then said he forgot he was late for a lab make-up class and had to run. He asked Bill to finish the game. “

“Guess we will never know if that was a setup or not!” said Carolyn.

Bill walked Carolyn back to Walter Hall, and she said she thought quietly of him the rest of that week.

That Saturday night, Bill walked up to the campus switchboard window and asked if she would like to go with his roommate, Denny Pitkin, and my roommate to an ice hockey game in Portland on the next Wednesday evening. Carolyn said, “Yes,” mostly because of his respectful behavior upon their first meetings. At the ice hockey game, Carolyn and Bill talked non-stop.

“The only thing I remember about the game was that a puck flew into the audience and hit a lady in the face.” Said Carolyn.

It was not until after Christmas that their romance escalated. Later, Carolyn learned that he went back to Idaho to inform an undergraduate girlfriend that he wanted to pursue Carolyn. In February, Bill drove Carolyn on a starry night to Henry Ford’s Restaurant high up in the Portland hills. It was the only time Carolyn had ever experienced driving on black ice.

“But it was fairly safe gliding around since no one else was on the roads anyway,” said Carolyn.

They were waited on like a king and queen in the empty and memorably romantic restaurant. The staff clapped when Bill to on his knees.

“I said ‘Yes,’ and he put the engagement ring on my finger. We married in the hills of Oakland, Calif., near my Lafayette home,” said Carolyn.

After a short coastal honeymoon, they returned to “nest” at Adult Student Housing for Bill’s last year at the Optometry school.

“I earned my P.H.T. (Putting Hubby Through), while teaching third grade in North Plains. I remember our king bed barely fitting in the tiny apartment. We had to stand on it to get into the closet and lie on the edge of it to open the dresser drawers. Learning to cook, I made my first Thanksgiving gravy in a teapot.,” said Carolyn.

Looking back, even with the “blips” during their marriage in 1972,  Carolyn finds it providence that she attended Pacific, since she thought she was going to attend a Christian college. In the fall of 1967, chapel was canceled in the first month, open dorm was voted on by all but three of female students, and cultural changes abounded throughout the United States, “making a permanent mark on most ‘liberal arts’ colleges, it seemed.” Yet, Carolyn said her character grew from her experiences at Pacific as she saw herself in clearer light and waited for a Christian man.

“It now seems as though Pacific provided a more protected environment than many other college students experienced during those war years,” said Carolyn.

Boxer stories, Philo crazy times, Homecoming Dramas, ballet and modern dance experiences with Mr. Neff, lifelong lessons in art with Mr. Horner, and her favorite classes on teaching phonics and remedial reading methods with Dr. Schworzman, are just a few of the memories from 1967-1971 B.B. (Before Bill).

Now, the couple lives on the Snake River near a town about the size of Forest Grove called Rupert, Idaho. She is still a part of the educational system, tutoring children in reading from her home.

After Carolyn’s two serious car crashes, resulting in neck and back surgeries, physical therapy, concentration problems, and unique but treatable heart troubles, her faithful husband remains committed fully and willingly.

Bill shares in a partnership in Family Vision and Eye Care in Rupert and still has his hand in farming in his home town of Buhl. This last year, he was voted Rotarian of the Year. When he received the award, Carolyn jumped to her feet and led the crowd in appreciation for their man with an unending servant’s heart.

“Long marriages (almost 42 years now for us) have the advantages of observing and learning the lessons of life and love. Bill’s practical, down-to-earth ways in caring and providing never quit. I joyfully realize what a friend, lover, and companion I have and desire to actively honor and reverence him the rest of my days,” said Carolyn.

“Thanks for this opportunity to tell this story of finding love at Pacific. Thank you for being there at the right time for us educationally and personally, Pacific!”

Read more Boxer love stories at pacificu.edu/lovestory

Feb. 22, 2014