Jenny Scarborough

Rhonda Rice wasn't expecting a ferry ride to change her life.

In 1984, she and some girlfriends were vacationing in Hatteras, and decided to come to Ocracoke for the night to hear some live music at the 3/4 Time Dance Hall and Saloon.  She saw Rodney Mason, at that time a deckhand with the ferry division, and thought, "Mmm.  There he is," she said.

Rhonda and Rodney on the night they met.   Congratulations on 25 years of marriage!
Rhonda and Rodney on the night they met. Congratulations on 25 years of marriage!

"She wanted to know what was going on," said Rodney.  "I invited her and her two sisters to a keg party at Harry Salem's trailer."  He headed straight over after he got off work.  Rhonda still has a picture of Rodney at that party in his state uniform, with his shoes off and pants rolled up.

Rodney was smitten with Rhonda's eyes, and her happy, easy-going personality.  She was the first woman to ever buy him a beer, which also impressed him.  "I'd never dated a woman who had done that," said Rodney.  "All those little things turned out to be a big thing." 

"The accent really got me, his Ocracoke accent," said Rhonda, who was also taken with his full heart and kindness.

At some point in the social evening, Rodney mentioned that if the ladies didn't feel like driving to catch the last ferry, they were welcome to stay at his place.

"Of course I didn't hesitate," laughed Rhonda, who after 25 years of marriage still lights up when she talks about her husband.

Rodney thought it imprudent to drive home from the bar, and Rhonda didn't feel like walking, so he "toted her home" on his back.

"Did he tell you that?!" said Rhonda.

"Then I had to go home the next morning.  I cried the whole way."  She and Rodney kept in touch for the next two years, while she managed a bar her parents owned in Farmington, PA.

When she followed her heart and moved to Ocracoke, "Rodney invited me to stay with him," she smiled.  The two were married on April 11, 1987.  Their daughter Chante' is now 19 and a college student studying nursing.

"She's dealt with me for 25 years.  She didn't change me and didn't try to," said Rodney.

Both said that like everybody in a long marriage, they've had ups and downs, and emerged stronger.

In the next 25 years, "Hopefully we can be retired and travel together.  We'll hunt and fish and do outdoorsy stuff that we both love," said Rhonda.