Being in the right place at the right time is more than being lucky – it’s about being prepared.
For long-time Stuart residents Bill and Leila Oughterson, it was both. From being tucked snuggly in a bed for an emergency appendectomy when the atom bomb was dropped to seeing an old girlfriend who happened to introduce the future couple, they have lived a charmed life.
Leila, 91, and Bill, 87, live comfortably at Sandhill Cove after years of using their energy to help others while making Martin County home.
“A lot of what I had accomplished, I just happened to be there at the right time,” Bill says, sitting under a University of Florida blanket and waiting for the game to start. “My parents gave me good confidence. If I had a good idea, I took it.”
One idea was to follow in his father’s footsteps. Having moved to Stuart when he was just days old, Bill was one of the very few (besides his father) who enjoyed playing tennis locally. As a result, the father-son duo was able to play with celebrities who came to town, including Katharine Hepburn.
In 1943, Bill graduated high school when he was just 16. He took his father’s advice and enrolled in the Citadel, which catapulted his military career before he was enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He stayed in the reserves for more than 20 years, rising in rank to lieutenant commander. He never returned to active duty; instead, again he was lucky enough that his father enrolled him in the University of Florida, where he earned a law degree and met his wife of 64 years.
Leila, who grew up outside Gainesville in Waldo, Fla., had graduated college and was working as a teacher. She attended UF for a summer to fulfill her teaching certification when her roommate – who had dated Bill years earlier – introduced the two. They fell in love, married and moved back to Stuart.
In June 1950, when he was sworn into the Florida Bar by Judge A.O. Kanner, Bill was asked by his father to join him at a meeting of the Kiwanis Club, which his father helped form. Bill agreed and was immediately sworn in – and he maintained perfect attendance for the next 63 years.
He also wrote a conservative column for the Stuart News called “One Man’s Opinion” for more than five years and umpired for tennis for many years, including a few for the U.S. Open.
Leila, who also enjoys tennis and golf, earned honors by volunteering at Martin Health System at the front desk for 50 years, as well as helping with the Woman’s Club of Stuart.
“I like to feel like I was doing something to help someone else,” she says.
Meanwhile, the couple also raised two children: William Scott, who is now an architect in Gainesville, and Lisa, who lives in Dallas, Texas. They have four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
After Bill retired from his law practice in 2001, the couple sold their Sewall’s Point home and eventually moved to Sandhill Cove. They feel blessed with a long life filled with friends and sunny days.