By Tom Lowrey, Education Program Assistant
“The gladdest moment in human life, methinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton
Pat met Bill in Philadelphia. “He was somebody else’s blind date,” she says, but they ended up being a couple, and were married in Washington, DC in 1960.
Prior to meeting Bill, Pat had spent her junior year in college studying political science in Paris and staying with a French family. Little did she know that in the coming years, she would be spending a lot of time there.
After living and working near the Pennsylvania-Delaware border for three years, Bill and Pat were sent on their first overseas job… to Iran. That country was quite different then. The Shah was in power, and Americans were treated well there, but many Iranians were being thrown into prison for disagreeing with him. Our government supported him, though, because he was anti-communist.
The couple lived in Tehran for two years, where they lived close to several other American expats, but also got to know the local people. Pat didn’t stay cloistered in her house. She went out to markets, learned to speak some Farsi, and she and Bill did some traveling around the country.
“The Iranian people are really very friendly. As a desert people, they are very welcoming to strangers.” Pat loved their food: a lot of lamb, rice, eggplant, and yoghurt-based sauces, and very sweet melons.
After Iran, they went straight to Paris, where they stayed three years. They had their two kids there. Pat really enjoyed the French lifestyle… the joie-de-vivre. “You could go sit in a café and watch the world go by.” In France, Pat and Bill traveled quite a bit, for both business and pleasure.
After Paris, it was back to the States for Pat and Bill, where they lived in Connecticut for five years before being sent to Hong Kong. The climate was subtropical, and there were many exotic plants and nice places to walk, and the food was very different and quite wonderful. The island was crowded, but they enjoyed their two years there. They had an apartment that overlooked the harbor, and Pat enjoyed sitting on the balcony and watching all the things that were going on down below. In 1975 Queen Elizabeth visited Hong Kong. “From our terrace I saw the airplane land at the airport, and I could follow her route through the streets to the Governor General’s mansion, where I saw her shake his hand.”
After two years in Hong Kong, the Staffords moved back to Paris for a seven-year stint that would be their final overseas job. While there, they traveled to many European countries, but Pat especially enjoyed the relaxed attitude of the French. “They don’t feel like they have to work every hour of the day. They enjoy their life more.” During school vacations, the Stafford boys would go skiing with their schoolmates in the French Alps and became very good skiers. Pat and Bill would ski too, but they also enjoyed the apres-ski cart! While in France, they revisited Hong Kong.
They then returned to Connecticut, but they never got tired of traveling. They visited many places in the USA, took a trip to Vietnam, and they would rent a friend’s home in Provence each summer for six years and enjoy the French countryside.
About ten years ago, Pat and Bill moved to Midland to be closer to one of their sons. Wherever they moved, Pat and Bill Stafford got to know the people, made a lot of friends, and enjoyed many cultures. Pat wouldn’t trade her life and experiences with Bill and her family for anything.