DIAMOND SPRINGS — From 1976 to 1986, the United States Navy used the motto “It’s Not Just A Job, It’s An Adventure.”
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Bill Howell was doing his job as an instructor at the United States Naval Training Center in San Diego in 1950 when he met Nancy Bertelsen, who was studying to become a communication technician in the United States Navy.
One of the things they have in common is their respective families lived in the Bay Area; Howell grew up in San Jose and Bertelsen resided in Saratoga. Plus, one of Howell’s and Bertelsen’s aunts belonged to the same lodge.
“There was a connection between the four of us,” Howell said.
On Dec. 19, 1952, Bill took Nancy’s hand in marriage at the Naval Learning Center in San Diego. On Dec. 19, 2012, the couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at the Cattlemens in Rancho Cordova with their two adult children, Christine Dugger, 56 and David Howell, 51, and their four grandchildren; three boys and a girl between the ages of 15 to 29.
“Everybody wanted a good steak,” Nancy said.
Shortly after their marriage and honeymoon, the couple were separated for four months. Bill remained in San Diego as an instructor, but Nancy was transferred to Washington, D.C. to work national security.
Bill left the United States Navy and moved to Washington D.C. to be with Nancy, and lived in the nation’s capital for a year. Then Nancy left the military, and the couple moved to Saratoga to be closer to their families. Bill became a printing salesman and Nancy attended San Jose State University.
“We sold yearbooks,” said Bill of one of his salesman duties. “At San Jose State, we made its magazines and periodicals. They had them for various departments.”
Missing the military life, Bill re-enlisted into the military but this time in the United States Army. Bill felt returning to serve Uncle Sam was the best choice.
“Jobs were hard to find,” Nancy said.
For most of the late 1950s, the couple lived in Monterey, where Bill taught the Russian language at Fort Ord in Monterey. He studied Russian during his first stint in the military. Then he and Nancy went to Munich, Germany, where Bill worked as an interrogator.
“Then they sent me back to the states,” Bill said.
The couple went to Fort Benning, Ga. where Bill worked as an advisor for special forces.
The couple received their orders to return to Ford Ord, where he learned Vietnamese.
In 1963, Bill served in the Vietnam War, spending most of his time in the jungles near Saigon.
Bill received a break from serving in the war but only for a year. He was trained as a chief warrant officer at Ford Hood, Texas and Fort Eustis, Va. and was sent back to the Vietnam War in the late 1960s.
After he returned from the war in 1971, Bill retired after a combined 30 years of service. Bill, Nancy and their two children moved to Placerville.
Bill attended California State University, Sacramento, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies in 1977.
He was hired by El Dorado County as a bailiff for juvenile court for three years.
In 1980, Bill was moved to superior court and became a marshal until 1989 when he retired.
BIll decided to return to the military — this time as a volunteer. From 1990 to 1993, he volunteered as an assistant operations manager at McClellan Air Force Base in North Highlands.
“I would commute from here to the base, do an eight-hour watch and then come home,” said Bill.
In addition, Bill served in the Pollock Pines-Camino Chamber of Commerce for four years. He served as president for one year.
From 1978 to 1993, Nancy owned Francis Clothes Garden in Camino. She sold the business when Bill retired from McClellan Air Force Base.
In 1998, the Howells moved to Diamond Springs. The couple resides with their 15-year-old tabby cat Patience. Patience showed up shortly after the Howells moved into their residence.
“She insisted on living with us,” joked Nancy.
The couple has enjoyed fishing and traveling the last 20 years. Some of their trips have been to Alaska, Canada and a Caribbean cruise. Nancy, 80, enjoys playing cards and Bill, 88, likes to paint. Inside their Diamond Springs residence are paintings all created by Bill. Those paintings range from various bays to birds.
“I’ll wait until summer gets here to go out and paint again,” Bill said.
The secret to a long and happy marriage, according to the couple, is patience and having a sense of humor.
“You have to have a good sense of humor,” Nancy said.
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or [email protected] Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.