If you don’t believe fairy tales can come true, don’t tell that to Bill Stirman and his wife of 14 months, Flo.
Bill, a lieutenant with the Brownwood Police Department, was coping — poorly — with being a widower following the Dec. 2, 2005, death of his wife, Judy, who was the Brown County treasurer.
Flo Reven, meanwhile, had been a widow since 1991. She thought she was content and well-adjusted following the death of her husband, Ray, and she never figured on remarrying.
She thought wrong.
After knowing each other for two decades, their paths crossing and criss-crossing in improbable coincidences, Bill and Flo — short for Florette — were married on June 10, 2006.
“Since Flo and I met again, she’s taught me how to live, laugh and love again,” Bill, 61, said. “I never in my wildest dreams believed any other woman would want me with the health problems I had and my age, and God was gracious, and he’s given me two great women.
“A lot of men are never blessed with one, and I’ve been blessed with two.”
Flo, also 61, an associate professor at Tarleton State University, had a similar outlook. “I’m still waiting to wake up. After so many years, the furthest thing from my mind was ever falling in love again or getting married,” Flo said.
Both are on the cusp of retirement. Bill’s last day with the Brownwood Police Department is Tuesday, and Flo plans to retire in May. Bill said he plans to run for the constable of Precinct 4 in the March primary election.
Bill graduated from Midland High School and served in the Marines from 1965-’68. He saw combat in Vietnam. After the Marines, he became a police officer in Midland.
Bill and Flo didn’t know each other then, but it turned out Bill knew her two brothers, who were officers with the Midland department.
After 10 years as a Midland officer, Bill, Judy and their two sons, Bill and Frank, went to Brady, where Bill was hired as police chief. Flo, a school teacher, taught both of Bill’s and Judy’s sons in eighth-grade science.
“I knew (Bill and Judy) then just as parents,” Flo said.
She left teaching and went to work for the Brady Police Department as a dispatcher in 1984. “She was a very hard worker and a very good example. She got to be a real good friend,” Bill said.
She recalled the Stirmans as “a great couple. They supported each other and their kids. Judy and I became friends over time.”
When Judy threw Bill a surprise 40th birthday party, Flo made the cake.
The Stirmans left Brady in 1987, and Bill joined the Brownwood Police Department. Flo ended up in Stephenville, teaching in the education department at Tarleton.
Flo and her husband, a lake patrolman, visited several times in a home at Lake Brownwood. The home’s owner was Bill Schat, now commander of the West Central Texas Inter-local Crime Task Force and a friend of Ray Reven. Bill and Judy Stirman eventually became the home’s owners — the home where Bill and Flo now live.
Bill and Flo hadn’t seen each other for several years when Flo, visiting one of her daughters in Brownwood over Christmas 2005, learned that Judy had died. She called Bill to offer condolences.
“I was reaching out to an old friend,” Flo said. “I knew he was going through a difficult transition time. I’d been through the same thing. I knew the path he was walking.”
When Bill’s phone rang that Dec. 29 night, he was glad to hear from Flo. “She was a shoulder to cry on,” Bill said. “I was glad to hear from anybody. Nights in a house you’ve been sharing for years, and all of a sudden you’re the only one, it’s the most lonesome feeling there is.
“I was blue and I was lonesome, and I wanted somebody to talk to.”
Bill asked her to coffee, and they met that night at Skillet’s. They visited for three or four hours, reminiscing about mutual friends. “It wasn’t a date — it was just one friend comforting another,” Bill said.
Flo was not looking for love. “I was content in my world,” she said. “I had my kids, my grandkids, my puppies, my job. Who needed anything else … especially a man?” she said with a laugh.
But the coffee non-date led to dinner dates.
One night in February, Bill went to Flo’s daughter’s home in Brownwood for dinner. He’d bought a ring but he hadn’t planned to propose until later.
But when he showed up that night, his plans changed. With Flo’s daughter and grandchildren in the same room, Bill asked Flo, “Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
The faces of Flo’s daughter and grandchildren erupted into grins, and Flo was dumbstruck. But she quickly said “yes.”
They have a combined six children and 10 grandchildren.
“I never dreamed back then that anything like this would happen or be capable of happening — knowing her brothers before I ever met her … her being a teacher of my two sons and working with her … and certainly, her becoming my wife wasn’t in any dream.
“It’s a fairy tale — a fairy tale ending. Even our kids knew each other growing up.”
Bill said he hasn’t forgotten Judy. “You don’t forget your first spouse. I think about Judy daily,” he said. “You never forget the spouse that’s passed away. There’s always a void in your heart. You just have to go on and live.”
As Judy’s condition from cancer weakened, he said, he and Judy talked about the likelihood that she would precede him in death. She instructed him to continue to live and to avoid becoming a recluse.
“I think I honored Judy by remarrying,” Bill said. “I was loyal to her up to the bitter end, and she didn’t want me to become a recluse. She wanted me to be happy.”
Bill said he is happy — “very happy.”
Flo agreed with Bill’s assessment of remarriage after the death of a spouse. “Judy will always be in his heart. Ray will always be in mine. Our previous lives are part of what makes us who we are now,” she said.
Bill said he’s put a sparkle back in Flo’s eye.
“I cannot deny that — not at all,” Flo said. “I thought I was happy but I was just going through the motions. … We were friends back in the ‘80s but we had other lives. I just think at this moment in time, this is meant to be.”