Three Years And Going Strong

By John J. Duncan Jr.

Grateful to The Focus and its readers

This is the first column of my fourth year writing for The Knoxville Focus newspaper. Every week for the past three years I have written a column, missing only the week my late wife, Lynn, passed away.

I am amazed at how fast the last three years have gone by and even more amazed by how much my life has changed.

As regular readers of my column know, I believe I was greatly blessed in my first marriage, and now in my second marriage to my wife, Vickie.

Vickie and I were in Sunday School and Bible School as children in the old Park City Presbyterian Church. When I was 12 years old, our family moved to Eastminster Presbyterian where I am still a member 64 years later.

Vickie’s family moved to Eastminster a few years after we did, and I have gone to church most of my life with her late parents and her two sisters and brothers-in-law.

Vickie was married for more than 50 years to a man she met at Maryville College who was a Presbyterian minister and teacher in East Tennessee.

After we both lost our first spouses to very serious illnesses just a few months apart, neither one of us expected to get married again. But, seven months after Lynn died, I went to a church supper and sat by Vickie. I accuse her of casting a spell over me.

Three and a half months later, we were married at Eastminster where I had proposed to her one day in an empty sanctuary. We are still very happily married for 16 months now.

Our combined families include seven grown children and spouses and 17 grandchildren. This adds up to 31 family members (not counting us) and we are blessed to have everyone living in Knoxville.

We downsized but still maintain a small home in Knoxville and a larger home in Grainger County on Cherokee Lake, about halfway between Rutledge and Bean Station. I have always enjoyed visiting other places, but I have never found any place I would rather live than East Tennessee. The people here have been so good to me and my family.

I have told young people for years that people in other states have frequently teased me about my accent, and sometimes natives of East Tennessee have been called hillbillies and made fun of. But now it seems that almost everybody wants to move down here with us.

My mother was from Iowa and moved here after college at Iowa Wesleyan. She had come to Knoxville to visit a sister who had married a University of Iowa graduate who had taken a job at TVA. Mama met Daddy, who was a student at UT, and three months later, they were married in Iowa City. I had the sweetest, best mother anyone could have ever had, and I always said I am glad we let people move here or I wouldn’t be here myself.

I did some legal work many years ago for Steve Hunley, the publisher of The Knoxville Focus. Some time after I retired from congress, he called and asked if I would like to write a column for his paper similar to the newsletter I sent to my constituents when I was in office.

I told him I would, and that I would write mainly on national issues, but I also wanted to write about a wide variety of topics, including music, sports, people I admire, iconic places in our area like Regas Restaurant and Barnes Barbershop, funny things children have said or written to me over the years, and more.

While I don’t see nearly as many people as I did when I was in office, I still speak to many groups, I remain politically active, and I go to some type of family event almost every week.

Almost every place I go, someone tells me how much they enjoy my columns. I appreciate that very much. This week I got a nice compliment from a man who works for the Congressional Credit Union in Washington, D.C., who reads The Focus each week online.

Knoxville is lucky to have The Focus, and I am lucky to have this column.