Story by Heather Lowery
Photography By Kristin Goode
Faith, love, weddings and wine. For Paul and Lynn Yeso, this is the recipe for happiness in their new life together in Brunswick County.
The couple’s zest for life is evident within their new home in Palmetto Creek. Charlie, their nine-month-old West Highland Terrier, is an eager greeter and mirrors his owners’ vibrant energy. The house is filled with cheerful, good-natured and humorous life mottos. Prominently displayed in their living room are “bucket lists” designed and given as gifts by Lynn’s daughter. Paul and Lynn each have their own metal bucket with their life’s goals proudly painted on the outside, and both are doing their best to live out each one.
The couple relocated from Pittsburgh, and they feel so blessed that this move to Brunswick County was on their path in life. The Yesos married in 2003, and between the two of them, from previous marriages, they have five children and five grandchildren. They each attest to unique life-changing experiences that led to their renewed purpose, love of life and relocation to this area.
For Lynn, it was a drastic career change.
“For several years, I kept putting the thought on the backburner,” says Lynn, “but finally at age 46 I answered the call to become a pastor.”
Lynn graduated from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2004 and worked as Director of Chaplaincy for the Allegheny County Jail. There she began a successful program that helped inmates reform their lives. In 2007 she was ordained a United Methodist pastor.
“Previously, I worked as a speech/language therapist and also in pharmaceutical sales,” says Lynn. “But neither one gave me rewards like my work in the ministry.”
Paul attributes his extraordinary appreciation for life to an accident in 1975 that changed him forever.
“I was 31 years old and I was on my first beach vacation,” Paul says. “A crushing wave crashed into the back of my neck. I had surgery to fuse my vertebrae back together. The doctors said that there was no medical reason as to why I was still alive. My respiration should have shut down, but miraculously it didn’t.”
Paul worked as a machinist at several Pittsburgh steel mills until the late 1980s. He chose to then go back to school so he could change careers. In 1990 he began working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which required him to frequently travel all over the world to areas in need of disaster recovery.
Paul received a promotion in 2008 and planned to retire in 2012. But a year later, the Yesos’ plans began to change.
“In February of 2009, Paul had just come home from disaster relief duty in Kentucky and he said that he felt like a change in plans,” says Lynn. “And I then told him that I had too. I had just finished up my second unit of clinical pastoral education and I told him I felt a call to do a year-long residency.”
Paul put in for his retirement a few years early, and Lynn applied for two possible residency openings: one at Duke and one in Wilmington at New Hanover Regional.
They both were hoping that she would get the job in Wilmington. When she was single, Lynn had vacationed at Myrtle Beach with her girlfriends, and later she and Paul had gone to Myrtle Beach together. They soon started to move their vacations up the coast to the North Carolina beaches and fell in love with the area.
Lynn traveled to Wilmington for the first time for her interview.
“It was a blessing because they told me right then and there that the job was mine if I wanted it,” says Lynn. “This gave us a whole year to plan the move and sell our house in Pittsburgh. Some people couldn’t believe that we were moving down here knowing that I only had the residency for a year. But we felt that it was in God’s plan for us.”
The Yesos rented a townhome in Carolina Beach before building a home this past August in Palmetto Creek. Now they have established permanent roots.
“Our new house is working out perfectly for us, and this community and the surrounding areas of Oak Island and Shallotte offer so much,” says Lynn. “This is one of our last moves… The very last move is straight up, and there’s no packing for that!”
Although Lynn’s residency ended in August, she continues to be on call for the hospital and is awaiting her next appointment. However, she is anything but idle. She started a wedding business called Bonded Hearts Weddings and Wine, combining her ministerial gifts with her husband’s talent and hobby of making homemade wine. They have a room designed in the garage especially for his wine-making process, complete with a professional corker.
“People jokingly call us the pastor and the wine maker,” they say.
In addition to being wedding officiant, Lynn also helps brides find reputable vendors and she sells Avon products. In addition to weddings, she performs baptisms, memorial services and vow renewals.
Lynn delivers ceremonies within a 100-mile radius and loves having weddings at unique venues, especially locations near the water. Most importantly, she strives to make every event special.
“It’s important to me to make the weddings very personal, so I take the time to get to know the couple,” says Lynn.
Paul also helps coordinate the weddings and takes photographs. Every couple that books a ceremony is also given a complimentary bottle of Paul’s wine with its own customized label.
“Everyone likes Paul’s wine and he does such a professional job,” says Lynn. “People keep telling him he needs to sell his wine. Maybe one day soon he will get his license to do that.”
“Making wine is in my blood,” says Paul. “My Hungarian grandfather used to make it. He would bring in truck loads of grapes. The family would gather together and he would tell us in Hungarian, ‘Good wine, good for the health.’”
Although Paul prefers making sweet and fruity wines, he is thinking about trying his hand at drier wines.
“I never thought I’d be so busy in retirement,” says Paul.
Even though the wedding business has kept them both hopping, the Yesos have found time to enjoy and explore their new surroundings. Since the move, Paul has been able to check off another goal on his bucket list: purchase a boat.
Lynn is working on her list too.
“Lynn had never fished before, so now she has learned to do that,” says Paul.
With a little bit of beginner’s luck, Lynn won first place in Carolina Beach’s Got-Em-On Live Bait Club’s Lady Angler’s Tournament in the Spanish mackerel competition.
“I couldn’t believe it!” says Lynn. “It was lots of fun!”
The Yesos motivate each other and they love doing things together. Going to their community’s gym, taking walks with Charlie, entertaining company, going to the beach, biking and taking road trips are just a few of their favorite activities. Paul continues to be on-call for disaster recovery, and he finds time to put his culinary skills to work baking chocolate chip cookies and cooking special hamburgers and Alfredo specialties. Lynn volunteers at the CARE center at the hospital. It is another of Paul’s goals to take hospice training so they can volunteer together. When Charlie is old enough, they would love to use him as a therapy dog.
The Yesos continue to talk about future aspirations, and with their level of positive energy and success, they make anything seem possible.
“One day maybe we will even open a little shop and call it Wine and Prayers,” says Lynn.
Lynn and Paul welcome what the future has in store for them, but one thing is crystal-clear.
“We live in our dream,” says Lynn. “We love knowing this is where we are supposed to be and we are having fun!”