By Ginna Parsons
RED BAY, Ala. – Billie Freeland Epler is finally a free woman.
Her last day at Red Bay Hospital, where she worked in the food services division, was July 4, and her children gave her a little party that evening, compete with fireworks.
“It was my independence day,” said Epler, 66.
But that doesn’t mean she’s going to stop cooking – it fact, she’ll probably be doing even more.
“I’ll probably cook every day now that I’m retired,” said Epler, whose husband of 40 years, Jim, died in 2011. They had two children and four grandchildren.
The main person she’ll be cooking for now is her new husband, Paul, whom she married in November. He’s the minister at Saucer Creek Church of Christ on the Tenn-Tom Waterway.
“He had just come to interview for the job in May 2013 and I missed his preaching that Sunday because I had to work,” she said. “He got the job and one Sunday when I didn’t have to work I went to hear him and I invited him back to the house to eat with us – my son and his family ate with me that day.”
He showed up for lunch, one thing led to another and the two started courting.
“We dated for about four months,” she said. “Paul was ready to marry before I was. I wanted to have time to get adjusted to the idea and to give my children time and to give the church time to think of us as a couple.”
It’s obvious when watching the Eplers interact that the two are deeply in love. She enjoys filling the role of a preacher’s wife and he’s thankful to have her by his side.
When they talk about their former spouses – Paul lost his wife of 50 years – they laugh and they cry and they console one another. And they like to tease.
“I’m a very frugal person,” Epler said. “If I make too many potatoes, I’m going to have a potato casserole or make potato salad.”
“That’s what she does all right,” Paul chimed in. “But she can really make those leftovers sing.”
The Eplers eat their big meal in the middle of the day and eat a little lighter in the evenings. On Sundays, she cooks a big meal for her family, like pork roast with gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, corn, cornbread or biscuits and a pie for dessert.
“At the hospital, I cooked every shift, either breakfast and lunch if I was working days or supper if I was working nights,” she said. “This is our first week together since I retired, so we don’t know what our schedule is going to be yet. I’ve been blessed to have this wonderful, new life.”
Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.