By John J. Duncan Jr.

This past Friday night at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, a sweet, beautiful woman named Vickie Dowling became Mrs. John J. Duncan, Jr.

Vickie and I were in the Sunday School and Bible Schools at the old Park City Presbyterian Church until I was 12 when our family switched to Eastminster.

She was a year behind me at both Chilhowee and Holston, and I have known her and her family and have gone to church with them most of my life.

Vickie was married for over 50 years to Rev. John Dowling, a Presbyterian minister and teacher who she met when both were students at Maryville College.

Her husband had Lou Gehrig’s Disease for the last five years of their marriage and could not even speak for the last two. He passed away in December of 2020.

My wife, Lynn, passed away on August 1 of 2021. She had had two strokes and was confined to a wheelchair for 3 ½ years and then cancer spread through her body.

Both Vickie and I had a deep and abiding love for our previous spouses, and we were both blessed with good and strong marriages.

Regular readers of The Focus know how much I loved Lynn. No one ever did as much for me as she did, and I tried very hard to be good to her, too.

Vickie will always have a special place in her heart for John as I will for Lynn.

Vickie has three children and eight grandchildren, and I have four children and nine grandchildren, and all live here. So, neither one of us was lonely, and neither she nor I ever expected to get married again.

But I walked into a church supper in mid-February, and the first empty seat was next to Vickie.

Many years ago, Eastminster had a Wednesday night Bible Study that 10 or 12 people would come to. I told Lynn that I thought more would come if we served food and had some good programs.

She liked to cook and entertain people, and I got some interesting speakers and soon we started having 75 or 80 or sometimes more at these Wednesday night suppers.

But Lynn did not like to go to church after she ended up in a wheelchair, so we started watching religious broadcasts at home.

I had not been to one of these Wednesday night suppers for several years and do not know exactly why I went the night I sat by Vickie. I have accused her of casting a spell over me that night.

But I think it is a wonderful blessing for both of us to have someone at the ages of 74 (me) and 73 (her) to spend whatever time we have left together.

I have told her that I think since I have been walking around with prostate cancer for the last five years (now in remission), I am getting a far better deal than she is.

I know some people will think we have moved too fast. But my dad told one of his brothers he had met the woman he wanted to marry the first night he met my mother at a YMCA dance, and three months later they were married in her hometown of Iowa City.

I heard on a program just a few days ago that George W. Bush married Laura three months after their first date, and I married Lynn 3 ½ months after our first date.

Parents of children know that love can expand, and it is possible to love a third or fourth child just as much as the first or second.

Vickie and I believe that our love has expanded and that we now love each other just as we did our previous spouses.

We hope and pray that God will expand our love even more in the years ahead.