Love Story of Bill & June

Today, I have a beautiful love story to share with you, about the couple in this Tenderly poster, Bill and June. First I’ll tell you a little about how I know them.

Bill came to my studio to learn letterpress, in order to print his poems. When I had my first child and moved to Chicago without my presses, be became the printer. Even when there was little business during the difficult triple transition of my father’s death, new motherhood, and moving to another part of the country, he stayed at the studio and helped keep Painted Tongue Press running. We worked together for several years, through the births of all of my children and through the grief following the murder of Bill’s stepson, Matthew. Bill retired from Painted Tongue Press in his 70s, when he and June married.

This year, they are carefully sheltering, being among the most vulnerable due to their age, June’s long time progression with Parkinson’s disease, and Bill being a cancer survivor. Bill provides the care that June needs because of her illness, and they married knowing that would be the case.

In 2009 at the invitation of a mutual friend, June and Bill travelled across the country from their respective hometowns of Portland, Oregon and Berkeley, California to their old hometown, Winston-Salem, NC, for their 50th high school class reunion—the first either of them had ever attended. At the banquet Saturday night, when the meal and festivities were over, Bill got up from his table, turned to discover June, who said, “I need a hug.” Bill responded, “OK here’s a hug.” To which June said, “That’s what I didn’t do all those years ago.” “Really?” Bill said, thoughtfully. As the evening drew to a close, June having gone to her room, being tired from her Parkinson’s, Bill suggested to their mutual friend that they go say “Good-bye” to June. At the urging of her friend— “Tell him the poem!” she said.—June spoke the poem, from memory—the one she had written one night, while babysitting and thinking of him. It was in the form of a prayer.

My Prayer

I prayed to see my Bill tonight,
But God seemed not to think
That he and I’d be coupled right –
That our thoughts would not link.
I pray that God would give to me
An evening with my Bill,
Moments of joy and love and glee,
To flood my heart with thrill.
I pray my Bill would of me know,
The way I of him dream;
And that his thoughts would ever grow
Of us, as love in team.
Although this love may foolish be
As schoolgirl crushes will,
I pray one day our God may see
As one, me and my Bill.

After the reunion, they returned to their respective states and kept in touch regularly, initially talking on the phone and it wasn’t long before Bill asked, “How far is it to Portland, anyway?” Soon they began to exchange visits—Bill traveling to Portland three time a year and June coming to Berkeley three times a year. From his first visit in 2009, Bill knew he would end up in Portland but he had to make the move very carefully, as he had a very full life in the Bay Area. After he finally moved up to Portland on Easter Saturday 2013, they were married, December 27, 2013—the anniversary of his first visit four years earlier.

Here is one of Bill’s poems, about June, and their shared experience with Parkinson’s:


My love is no Snow Queen,
         though we do speak,
         with some regularity,
         the word frozen
         or the words freezing up
         to describe her state—
         an apt metaphor 
         when I see her feet
         unable to move
         as if they were frozen in place,
         frozen to the carpet,
         a book in hand,
         frozen to the tarmac,
         waiting, the car door open,
         frozen to the lawn,
         in her particular Parkinson’s limbo,
         shears and trimmings
         held out for balance,
         as if making an offering, 
         or a supplication.

But this disease of diminishment
         does not touch her heart,
         her large, warm, playful,
         open heart that moves
         with ease from tango
         to waltz to jitterbug,
         from minuet to bebop,
         and so we take what is
         and laugh and weep
         and dance our way
         through each day.

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