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Regis Wenham Loves Life In Her Adopted Hometown Of Wellington Story by Ray Burow • Photos by Abner Pedraza

As half of one of Wellington’s most well-known couples, Regis Wenham is no shrinking violet. When she is not supporting her husband, former Wellington Mayor Tom Wenham, in his endeavors, she has spent many years enjoying her own close social circle in the community. Wenham met her future husband more than six decades ago. Raised in Needham, Mass., she was 15 years old when she met the 19-year-old at a Fourth of July picnic. Their first meeting was a surprise to both of them when the young woman mistook the handsome airman for his brother. Naturally, since the party took place at a nearby lake, she snuck up behind someone she thought was her friend. She playfully, but mistakenly, shoved Tom Wenham and could only look on embarrassingly as this stranger tumbled into the water. The story plays like a black-and-white movie. One night in 1952, Wenham told her mother that she was going out to visit a girlfriend, but in actuality, she and Tom were going out on their first date to an amusement park. “He was what we call a hunk,” Wenham recalled. “Still, to this day, he calls me his sweetheart.” Tom returned to his U.S. Air Force base soon after their first date, and the couple began a long-distance relationship, writing to one another daily. “My mother knew that he was writing to me, because he used to send them to the house. I’m not sure if she ever opened any,” Wenham said. On some level, Wenham believed that her mother knew that she and Tom were involved, but her mother also figured that her teenage daughter was safe in her attraction, since her military suitor remained far away. 58

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If her mother had opened those letters, she would have learned a huge secret. The couple planned to sneak away to New Hampshire, where a 15-year-old could marry without permission from her parents. In January 1953, the night before Tom was deployed to Korea, Regis became Mrs. Tom Wenham and no one was the wiser. The couple successfully kept their secret until his return a year later. Wenham admits to tough times as a child, but she doesn’t reflect on those difficult days. However, she is convinced that her early challenges contributed to a level of maturity, which in turn allowed her mother and grandmother to be more accepting of her young marriage. “I was never a young person. You know how there are some kids who are old and some never grow up? I was never a kid. You grow up fast,” Wenham said. When her husband returned from overseas, the couple moved away to begin their new life together in Nevada, where Tom was stationed. Regis busied herself with finishing high school. Surprisingly, she wasn’t the only married student to graduate from Las Vegas High School. Unlike Massachusetts, it wasn’t illegal to attend high school as a married student. “What helped Tom and I was when he came back, we left for Las Vegas with everything we owned,” Wenham recalled. “We didn’t know a soul. You either got along or you didn’t get along.

There was no one to run home to. So, you learned to work it out.” Two years into their marriage, they had a son. They decided to move back east following Tom’s discharge. He attended Northeastern University, and his wife worked from home making draperies and slipcovers. Soon Wenham was working for several decorators but grew tired of the work. She then began working as a temp, which she loved. The variety of jobs she encountered provided just the type of challenge she needed. “I had a ball, and I learned more stuff. They were very happy to teach you,” Wenham recalled. She had multiple job experiences, working in the reception area of various agencies, also as a switchboard operator and finally with computers. Wenham had a front-row seat at the emergence of the computer industry. There is a slight regret in her voice, as she explained that she didn’t stick with it. It then came time to move again. Her husband had a friend who continued to entice him to work in Florida, especially when the weather was cold up north. But it wasn’t until Regis’ mother suddenly passed away that the couple decided to take him up on the job offer, and they moved to Wellington. Once in Florida, she began working for a temp agency called “Atta Girl.” The name was later changed to “Personnel One,” and Wenham supposes it was because the name was deemed offensive. “I suppose it was sexist, now that I think of it,” she said with a chuckle. Temp work provided Wenham the type of flexibility she needed to explore a new interest. She became interested in golf, started playing the sport and began volunteering with the Chrysler Team Championship Tournament.

Wellington The Magazine June 2018  

June 2018 | ON THE COVER American Heritage School Valedictorian Meghana Vemulapalli was accepted to and will be attending the Massachusetts...

Wellington The Magazine June 2018  

June 2018 | ON THE COVER American Heritage School Valedictorian Meghana Vemulapalli was accepted to and will be attending the Massachusetts...