The couple continued to work at menial jobs. Sam had been offered several scholarships to attend local colleges, but between them they decided it was not feasible for Sam to attend college and Amanda to work full time. They just wouldn’t have enough to cover the rent.
October 1, 1965 two pieces of mail arrived that would forever change their world. The first one was from the United States Defense department seeking confirmation that Sam Patterson lived at that address and that he had graduated high school. Not seeing any harm in this letter they responded affirmatively on both questions.
The second piece of mail was addressed to Amanda Stevens and was from a law firm in Omaha. The firm was seeking Amanda Stevens, dob March 1, 1948, whose parents were Joseph and Emily Stevens. The letter frightened Amanda as she had never dealt with lawyers before and had no idea why they would be looking for her. Omaha was a very long distance from the city of Florida.
Amanda wrote a letter back to the law firm explaining that she was the person they were seeking and would like to have more information from them. Two weeks letter an official letter came from the law firm stating that they needed to meet with her immediately and if she could not come to them, they would come to her.
Jeff Halston, from the law firm of Holmes and Watson came to Florida, Nebraska to meet with Amanda. He introduced himself as Amanda opened the front door and she led him to the dingy living room, excusing the state of her home. He quickly put her at ease.
“Amanda,” Jeff began, folding his hands together, “I’m not one to beat around the bush so I am going to come out and tell you what I am here for.”
Amanda gave Sam a questioning look and turned to Jeff and said, “Thank you.”
“Let me start by asking you a few questions, if you don’t mind.” Jeff said.
Amanda nodded her acquiescence.
“You were born on March 1, 1948, right?”
“Your parents were Joseph and Emily?”
“Your brother’s name is Riley and he served in the U.S. Army?”
“Do you know the whereabouts of your brother?”
“No sir,” Amada replied.
“You have not heard from him?”
“Not since he left over four years ago.” She said.
“I am sorry to be the one to tell you this, but your brother died in combat over a year ago. Was your mother ever notified?”
Amanda took a moment to digest the news that not only was she an orphan, but that she had no other family. She looked the attorney in the eyes and responded, “If she was, she never told me; and even if she was I’m not sure it would have registered with her. Her last couple of years was very rough and she didn’t seem to comprehend much.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Jeff said, “But the good news out of all of this is that with you being the sole relative left, Riley’s death benefits and pension will come directly to you. His benefits are higher as he died in battle.”
Aghast, Amanda said, “I don’t even know how to respond to that. You tell me my brother is dead, has been dead for over a year, and that I am benefiting from that. That is a lot of information for me to take in.”
Jeff smiled and continued, “That is not the only information I am going to spring on you today Amanda.” He sat back on the couch and folded his legs. “Do you remember when you were younger and you won all those beauty pageants?”
She smiled, “Of course I do.”
“Well I guess your mother was very smart and looked out for your future. She took half of every prize you won and place it in a trust for you that you would receive on your eighteenth birthday. That is in four months, right?”
“So on your eighteenth birthday the trust will pay you in full. Some of those funds have been accruing interest for over fifteen years. The sum total in that trust as of today is twenty three thousand, seven hundred and change.”
Amanda’s hand shot to her mouth as her eyes grew very wide. “Are you saying all the money is mine in March?”
“Yes ma’am, and we will be sending you a check within the next thirty days for all the back benefits you should have been receiving from your brother’s life insurance and benefits. You can expect a check for that first disbursement to be approximately fifteen thousand dollars and then you will be receiving a regular disbursement every month for two hundred fifty dollars.”
Amanda could not believe her ears. She had never handled money of those great sums and was completely overwhelmed.
Jeff got up to leave and as Amanda showed him the door he said, “It was very nice to meet you and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me at any time.”
After he left Sam and Amanda hugged in a daze. She finally said, “Now we will have enough money for you to go to college and we will have enough left over to buy a house.”
Sam responded, “Mands, I don’t want to take all your money. You should keep some in a safe place just in case. It does give us a safety net for me to go to school so I can get a better job, but I am going to see if I can get scholarships as well.”