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Joe & Jamie Lewallen

Welcome to the first episode of our new You.Two. podcast series capturing inspiring love stories from real-life couples.

Countless marriages begin at BC Clark. As Oklahoma’s oldest jeweler, we have reveled in witnessing stories bloom, unfolding into beautiful epics. We are now telling some of those stories.

In this episode, we meet Joe and Jamie Lewallen.

Hear what commitment and happiness mean to them today after 36 years of marriage, the loss of a child, and getting three kids through college, and watching them embark on their own journeys. Find out why they can’t wait for the next 36 years.

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Episode Transcript

Jamie: I think it… Just for me, Joe, I don’t know about you. But I look at the rings, and it really is a sign of commitment because we have been through a lot.

Joe: It is a sign.

Jamie: We have actually lived all of those horrible things that can happen in a marriage, and…

Joe: And the great things.

Jamie: And the great things.

Jamie: To me, that’s commitment.

Joe: That’s the best word.

Jamie: It would have been very easy to give up, but we did it. And we’re better people for it. And that’s what I think when I look at my ring. I just think, “Wow.” It doesn’t seem like 36 years, though.

Joe: No. No, it doesn’t.

Jamie: Don’t say it seems longer.

Jamie: I’m Jamie Lewallen, and I have been married to Joe for a long time. We have four children. I used to be in the banking world, but about a long time ago, I didn’t do that for very long. So we started having all these four children. And so now, I give my time outside of the home through our church and through a couple of nonprofits that I have a lot of love for – specifically, children with learning disabilities.

Joe: Well, so I’m Joe Lewallen. Married to Jamie – 36 years and, oh, almost a month. If somebody’s counting. May 18th. It’s inscribed inside my ring, in case – that was my dad’s suggestion – in case I ever forgot, which I have not forgotten.

Jamie: No, you haven’t forgotten yet.

Joe: No. But, yeah. We’ve been married that long and have four kids. I’m a practicing lawyer here in town. And so I spend most of my time doing that. Unless we’re on family trips or doing something fun, which we do a lot of these days.

Joe: We met when Jamie was out of college and working as a banker, and I was in law school. And it just so happened that my roommate in law school was a college fraternity brother who was also working with Jamie in a small group of young graduates in this banking program at the First National Bank in Oklahoma City. And so there was a lot of crossover between my freshmen law school class and their banking management class that they were all in, having graduated with finance degrees and that sort of thing. And so we ended up at happy hours and things like that occasionally. And my roommate helped sort of put us together, I’d say. I’d credit him with it. Wouldn’t you?

Jamie: I’d credit him with that.

Joe: Yeah. But it wasn’t sort of set up that way. It just… It kind of evolved.

Jamie: Yeah. It was the summer of 80 –

Joe: Two.

Jamie: 82.

Joe: No, no. 83. You’re right.

Jamie: 83. Summer of 83. Yeah.

Joe: Yeah.

Jamie: And you were late for our first date, two and a half hours late.

Joe: Yeah.

Jamie: I wasn’t sure there was going to be a second date.

Joe: Yeah.

Jamie: That was back before we had cell phones. So if you’re running late, you could stop and use a payphone and call, but that did not happen.

Joe: Yeah.

Jamie: But, yeah.

Joe: I didn’t have a quarter. Or whatever they would have cost.

Jamie: It was probably 10 cents back then.

Jamie: I would say it was probably love at first sight.

Joe: Yeah, it was, I think. I knew it.

Jamie: I don’t know.

Joe: I knew. I don’t think she did, but I knew I was going to hang on to this one.

Jamie: And not let me go even though I was older than you, a little bit older than you.

Joe: She’s considerably older than me.

Jamie: About ten months in all, I think.

Joe: Yeah. But she was born in 1959. I was born in 1960. So we’re completely different decades, which makes for some interesting things because she knows all this stuff about the fifties. And I don’t even… I can’t relate to it.

Jamie: That’s so funny. So funny. Yeah.

Joe: It’s worked out.

Jamie: Yeah, it’s worked out. We have a lot of things in common. We enjoy a lot of the same things.

Joe: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. So we dated for not quite two years. No, just a little over a year before we got engaged.

Joe: Yeah. Right.

Jamie: On my birthday.

Joe: Oh, that’s right. I knew that. Yep.

Jamie: Yeah.

Joe: She has a great birthday too. It’s easy to remember. 9/9.

Jamie: 59.

Joe: Yeah. 9/9/59.

Jamie: If you screw that one up, you’re in trouble.

Joe: Yeah. That’s right.

Jamie: Well, I remember we… I was so surprised when we got engaged because we actually went out, we went for lunch or dinner or something actually on my birthday. But it was a Wednesday or Thursday night, I think. And so you gave me a watch, which you had bought from Paul.

Joe: That’s right. It was like a decoy.

Jamie: It was a decoy for the ring. Yeah.

Joe: Yeah.

Jamie: And so you gave me the watch actually on my actual birthday. And then, on the weekend, we went out.

Joe: Because she was, at that point, in Oklahoma City. And I was in Norman.

Jamie: We went out to a nice dinner.

Joe: Yeah.

Jamie: It was at a restaurant that’s no longer there. Do you guys… You’ve been in Oklahoma City for a while. There was that place called The Dining Car. And it was like in the back of the Interurban at Northpark.

Joe: It was part of what was Interurban. I mean, now, that’s gone through about three or four other restaurants in the north part of Interurban was – actually, right next to BC Clark, at that point.

Jamie: Yeah.

Joe: But it was an Interurban. And inside it, they had an upscale…

Jamie: It was in the back. It was a secret door. And you go back in there; it was called “The Dining Car.” And that’s where we went.

Joe: Yeah. Super romantic to have been engaged at a place that no longer exists.

Jamie: Yeah. It would have been nice if it was someplace like “The Metro” that stays right there.

Joe: Yeah. Where you can say, “Oh, yeah. That’s it right there.” Wouldn’t really do much today.

Jamie: But, yeah.

Joe: Yeah. That’s right.

Jamie: It was in September, and we got married. We only had one week that we could get married and go on a honeymoon because you graduated from law school. And then a week later, we got married a week later. And then, a week later, you started bar review classes on Saturday. So we only had one weekend.

Joe: Yep. 

Jamie: They used to always… They used to say, “Why don’t you guys get married while he’s in law school? He’ll do better if you’re married.” And I said, “I just need to make sure he gets out. I’ve got a vested interest in this.” So I let him graduate on Saturday. We got married the next weekend. They said, “Well if you were worried, you should have waited till he passed the bar. And then get married.”

Joe: That’s much bigger.

Jamie: I said, “Yeah. I hadn’t thought about that.” I just didn’t know.

Joe: It could have been a disaster.

Jamie: Yeah, but it was a great celebration. We had a beautiful reception and so many people. It was wonderful. We didn’t have a single bite to eat. I don’t know. We did taste the cake because we had to do the obligatory photos. But I remember we left that day and flew to California for our first night. And then we went on from there to Hawaii. And I remember calling my mom, saying, “So how was the food? Was it…” And she was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Joe: She was furious.

Jamie: All of that trouble on that food, and the specific things you wanted, and you didn’t even see it. I said, “I don’t even remember if it was there or not.” I was just so busy going around and seeing everybody, but it was a lot of fun.

Joe: It was great.

Jamie: Yeah. It was great.

Jamie: I don’t know. I just think, for me, I was just so happy, and so I don’t think I really got, I’m really not a super nervous person. I didn’t stand there in the back and just think, “Oh my gosh. I’m going to faint,” or anything like that. I mean, I was very emotional. I’m very close to my dad. And, of course, he was there to walk me down the aisle. But I was really just more excited to be married. I’ve never been happier than to just start my life like that. It was just… I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t worried about whether I was making the right decision or not. I was just really happy. Really happy and not nervous at all. You looked like you were sweating.

Joe: I was super nervous, and I’m a crier. I cry at a good commercial. And at our son’s wedding, recently, the rehearsal dinner, I just made a complete fool of myself on both occasions. Just literally just blabbering. I just couldn’t… I mean, I’m a lawyer. I speak in front of big crowds. That’s not a problem for me. But things that are personal like that, I just can’t handle it. And so I remember just standing there at the front of the church crying.

Jamie: Yeah. You’re definitely a crier. That’s a good thing. It just means you love well. That’s important. You’ve instilled that in our boys. Our boys hug, and they cry. They’re strong men, but they’re not afraid to show their emotions. That’s a good thing. 

Joe: Yeah. I’ve kind of quit apologizing for it. It just is what it is.

Jamie: You don’t have to apologize for it. We just expect it. If you didn’t cry, we’d think there’s something wrong with you.

Joe: It was just a lot going on at the time, finishing law school and getting all that going, a new career, and all that. But we were ready to do it and excited about it. And it was a lot of fun. So I remember having just a lot of fun, especially once we were through.

Jamie: Yeah. It was just fun. We’ve always tried to have a lot of fun. 

Joe: No, you know what? I knew, early on, when we started dating, I could tell she had this really strong sense about her. And she just… She is a rock. And so I knew that you would be. I could just tell. She just exuded that sort of – almost like maybe I felt then, in a way, a sort of a maternal kind of instinct that you had at the time. I could see that. I’m not sure I could articulate it, but something about that inside I knew. And so I could tell then, and I think you’ve been – Nobody’s a better mom ever and never will be. And I think that has been what has really helped keep us all together as a family because she’s so strong and the way you go about things. I could see that. So eyes and bossiness.

Jamie: I knew the bossy part was going to come out there. “Strong” sounds so much better than “bossy.”

Joe: Strong’s a little nicer than bossy, but it’s the same thing. So, yeah. You can read it however you want.

Jamie: Yeah. I’m kind of bossy. It’s all right.

Joe: You’re bossy. But sometimes, we need bossy.

Jamie: Yep.

Jamie: I remember when I first met him, and he was talking about his parents and how they got divorced. It was amicable, and you were raised by both of them. But you lived with your dad. And you said, at that time, “I will never do that to my children. And I will fight for my marriage.” And so I knew then, this was a guy that wasn’t ever going to walk away if things got tough. And he was going to be committed to working through the good times and the bad times. And that was really, really important to me. That once the new wore off, and you just were married. And you were living in that daily grind of raising a family and getting through life, that there would always be someone there that was just committed to making it work and being there. That was, for me, I wanted someone that was going to be more than just the honeymoon and the fun times and the good times. Someone that was going to be there and is strong and be a great role model for our kids about how you do life.

Joe: Yeah, we definitely enjoyed those first three or four years before we had kids.

Jamie: We had kids pretty early, though. We got married in 85, and our first one was born in 88. And then, we didn’t really have a conventional marriage from that point on, really. Our oldest son, before he turned two, was diagnosed with cancer. And he was diagnosed three months after we had our second child. We had our first two boys really close together, and they were only 18 months apart. So once we started having children, our life was crazy. I mean, it was so fun but so crazy. But before he was two, he was diagnosed with a very rare form of Leukemia, and then for the next ten years, our life was just… It was a good thing we had a very, very strong marriage because we went through a lot. And we had our four children all in that time, and our youngest child was diagnosed with some severe learning disabilities when she was two. So I look back on that and think about people our age, and I look at my own children, what they’re doing now at the age, our one who’s getting ready to have his first child, he’s going to be 32. When we were 32, we were dealing with a child with cancer and had been for several years and raising a family. And he was working hard in a law firm, and we just grew stronger, our marriage, and closer together, and it doesn’t always happen like that. I mean, I remember our conversation with our priest at church. He said, “Families either grow together or grow apart when you have tragedies in your life.” And we were really committed to not being one of those people that grew apart.

Joe: We were very lucky that we had a lot of support from our church.

Jamie: Our families.

Joe: Our families, friends and because of that, it did help us to do that, and I am proud of that.

Jamie: That’s the thing I’m most proud of in our marriage is that we were able to really get through that ten years and be closer together as husband and wife and raise our children to be there and support each other. So that was a crazy ten years, really of our marriage because, in ’98, our son died. And then we have these three little kiddos, and I think God knew what he was doing when he gave us three more children because we just had to move forward in life.

Joe: It’s not like you could just sort of lay in bed and say, “I’m not getting up today.”

Jamie: Yeah so-

Joe: It would have been nice a few times, but you couldn’t do it because they were dragging you out of bed saying, “Let’s go. We have things to do.” So we did.

Jamie: But I think that we look at life a little bit differently than I think a lot of people and in our… I think it set the stage for our boys, especially because they saw what we went through and how hard their dad worked and what they needed to do to be successful and how you can be successful even through adversity and you can become better people from that. And I do think that that’s the good that came from our son’s death is that I mean, we’re all the better for it. Our boys are definitely better for it. You learn the things that are really important in a marriage and in life and what you can do.

Joe: We spent several years, we had some friends that encouraged us to find a way to raise some money and in our son’s memory and we started small, but we had this baseball tournament, and really it was, we just were along for the ride. We had all these friends that were just doing it. And this thing just exploded in popularity over the Memorial Day holiday, and so we did that for-

Jamie: Eight years.

Joe: … Eight years. Which was a blast, and the one by-product of that was, not only was it a lot of fun, but it taught all these kids that were playing in this tournament, hundreds of kids, about giving back and volunteering and donating money and doing things for good. And then, at the same time, we ended up endowing a chair for $2 million in his name for research, and lots of good has come from that too. So I think there’s a lot of silver lining there that, on a positive side, helped shape us. I mean, it certainly made us who we are, no doubt about it.

Jamie: Absolutely. It did. And then our youngest daughter, she’s got her difficulties. And so we had bookends of things, and she’s a pistol. She’s 26 now. So we went through lots of challenges with her to where she needed to be, and she’s been successful. And that’s my love for children with learning disabilities in that school; that little school I help with is where she graduated from high school. But she did great. We got to send her off four years to college in Florida. Not a degree-seeking program, but a chance to go to college. And that might’ve been the next hardest thing for four years, sending your daughter with learning disabilities away to school in Florida. I mean, we could have found someplace closer, I guess.

Joe: But she learned to travel independently. We would put her on a plane and have somebody on the other end picking her up and stuff. And man, she just, it changed her. She’s very independent because of that.

Jamie: Well, yeah. It’s the baby and the only girl.

Joe: It was hard. It was really hard on me. Again. I told you, I’m a crier. I just completely balled every time I’d say goodbye to her, and she’d say, “Don’t cry.” I can’t help it. That’s what I do.

Jamie: Well, we do; we have friends that thought we were crazy for doing it because she does have some severe learning difficulties. She’s on the autism spectrum, and you wouldn’t know it when you first meet her because she’s full of joy and very sociable. She doesn’t have any real issues there. She just intellectually can’t do a lot, but they thought we were crazy sending her off. And there were a lot of sleepless nights, but it was the best thing that we could’ve ever done for her.

But yeah, I think that we’ve had to buck up and be parents and be strong. We didn’t always agree eye-to-eye on everything we did, but we always, the kids never knew, we didn’t disagree.

Joe: Yeah.

Jamie: We always were a united front.

Joe: I was always right, as it turns out, I think. Don’t you think?

Jamie: They’ve always called me, though, when there were problems. They never called you. 

Jamie: Well, it’s funny, they both found the girls that we knew they were going to marry because they didn’t meet them in college. They met them both when they were out of school. Ben met his little wife in Dallas through a friend. Baxter, he was out of school, getting ready to go to law school, and met his little wife, Kara, here in Oklahoma City. 

It was funny because when they went to pick out the gold wedding bands, Paul said, “You guys know what you want,” to Ben first? He goes, “I want just what my dad has.” And back to the same thing, not knowing that’s what Ben had done. She goes, “I want what my dad has.” And Paul goes, “Well, hold on just a second.” So we got his files out, and he goes, “This is it. This is the size. This is gold. This is how wide it is.” And had the records from all those years ago when Joe got his.

Joe: Which I thought was pretty cool.

Jamie: I think maybe it just… I think they have lots of friends that parents are no longer together or they come from families that aren’t as strong. And maybe they see that as a sign. Well, you’ve been wearing that same ring for all these years. Maybe that is a sort of… Maybe that will do the same thing for them.

Joe: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I hope so. I mean, I hope they do. Yeah. They see how happy we are and how much fun we have. And I think that I do hope it sets a role model. And if they need the ring, the band, to make it happen, then let it happen. I don’t think that’s it. But…

Jamie: It might be.

Joe: Yeah.

Jamie: I don’t know.

Joe: They’re happy with them, though.

Jamie: Yeah.

Joe: It’s kind of fun.

Jamie: I think it was harder for me, just mom and boys. Because I mean, naturally, I was super close to them. If they had any problems, I mean, I was their go-to person. Well, when you get married, you hope to goodness, I’m not their go-to person anymore because I don’t want, I mean, they need to cling to their wife, and they go through all that. So as a mom, I kind of felt like you were just… I didn’t lose that connection, but it was pretty emotional for me. It was just a different thing. For you, I think your relationship with the boys got closer. Because now that they were married, they went to him for… Because their roles were different. How am I going to run my house? Well, how can I be successful? How can I make sure that my marriage is as strong as yours? Those kinds of things, they’re going to go to their dad. He’s going to set that example for them. As opposed to me, they will now go to their wife, which is the normal course of things. So I think for moms, with boys, and I’ve talked to friends, that moms and boys, it’s a lot harder because you’re really letting go of that. That’s how I feel. But it’s wonderful. I love my daughters-in-law. I do, really. I know it’s corny when people say, “Oh, I’m not losing a son. I’m gaining daughters.” I really do feel that way.

Joe: Yeah, we’re very lucky.

Jamie: We’re very lucky. They’re very much in our lives. We’re still very connected. They still like to be around us even though they’re married. I don’t know if it’s because we pay for dinner? Maybe that’s it. I don’t know. 

Jamie: I think it… Just for me, Joe, I don’t know about you. But I look at the rings and think of it as just… It really is a sign of commitment because we have been through a lot, and we have had a lot of trials and tribulations. And when you say those marriage vows all those years ago, and you’re excited and happy, and we’ve recited them to each other, in sickness and in health, all of that. We have actually lived all of those horrible things that can happen in a marriage.

Joe: And the great things.

Jamie: And the great things.

Joe: For richer or for poorer, in sickness and health.

Jamie: Yeah.

Joe: For better or for worse. Yeah. Having just watched some weddings, these are all fresh on my mind. But you’re right. I think the same thing. I mean, I’m proud of it.

Jamie: I’m very proud of the fact that we have been married that long and that we’ve been able to weather the storm a lot of times and been able to find the good in all of those bad things that happened to us and still have joy in our lives. And we aren’t bitter.

Joe: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you’re right.

Jamie: To me, it’s just commitment.

Joe: Yeah. That’s the best word. I think because you see people who aren’t willing to commit. Or they’ll… Some of these kids will, I mean, I hate to sound old-fashioned, but they live together or whatever. And it’s not just a matter of a short term before we get married. It’s like, “Well, we’ll just make sure whatever.” There’s always an excuse, but that’s not the way it works, I think. And I think it’s important to have that commitment. And so, yeah. Even 36 years later, if I look at that ring, that means a lot to me. And I think it’s a sign. And I think the priest says that when you’re putting them on in the service. It is a sign.

Jamie: What I think, too, for me, 36 years later, it’s even better than it was when we got married.

Joe: Yeah.

Jamie: I think we’re closer and happier. And we have just as much fun, even through everything we’ve been through.

Joe: In fact, I really think it makes you appreciate all that even more. It makes you realize how fragile it can be. And so you got to enjoy it. And you can either be a positive person, or you can be a negative person. You can either look on the bright side and be happy, or you can complain. And we just, I think, choose to be more on the happy and positive side. I think we’ve taught our kids that. And I think they are that way now, and I think they’ll continue to be that way.

Jamie: Well, I also think, too, we always said this to the boys, even after Trippy died, and there were a couple of rough years there. And we just remember, I remember having conversations, especially with Baxter, and saying, “Look, you can live your life making excuses and say, ‘Well, I was dealt a raw deal when my brother died, and this and that, and life is horrible.’ Or you can learn from that and become a better person because of it.” And I think we’ve all done that, and it would have been easy to give up. I mean, good Lord. We were practically bankrupt from medical bills and trying to raise kids and put them in school and all of that. It could have been… It would have been very easy to have given up, but we did it. And we’re better people for it. And I’m proud of us that we were able to do that.

Joe: Yeah.

Jaimie: That’s what I look at when I look at my ring. I just think, “Wow.” It doesn’t seem like 36 years, though.

Joe: No. No, it doesn’t.

Jamie: Don’t say it seems longer.

Jamie: After living through these last 15 months, it’s made me realize that, I mean, I know the old saying “life is so short,” but it really is short. And we really intend to. We’re finally at a stage in our life that, God willing, we stay healthy and that our children are raised. And they’ve got good jobs, and they’re healthy. And they’re settled. Even our youngest daughter, she’s got a job. And we can really start to, I think, kind of our second-half of our marriage, what that looks like, doing some traveling and…

Joe: Being around the family.

Jamie: Yeah.

Joe: Our first grandchild is coming in September.

Jamie: Yeah. We are going to have our first grandchild.

Joe: I’d say we’re pretty happy about that.

Jamie: We’re excited about that.

Joe: We think about that a lot.

Jamie: Right. Just spending more time together. And hopefully, we have great health, so we can continue to do the fun things we love and be around our family and friends.

Joe: And you will be a great-grandmother.

Jamie:I hope so. I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully, we will get another 36 years if we make it. My grandmother lived to be 102. So…

Joe:I think she will live that long. You will live that long. There’s no doubt in my mind.

Jamie: I don’t know about that.

Joe: Yeah. You’ve got plenty of room.

Jamie: I’ve got pretty good genes.

Joe: Yeah.

Jamie: Yeah.

Joe: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamie: So we might make it. We’ll just take baby steps. 40. We’ll live until 40. That’s only four years away.

Joe: Yeah, yeah.

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