Musical company

They found love, companionship despite their grief

Donna Williams and Joe Teague had both loved and lost, and they were no longer looking for love when they found each other.

Donna had been married for 50 years when her husband died in 2010, and she found solace in a monthly bereavement support group at the funeral home who performed her service.

“I had been going to this support group for two years and three months,” she says. “I had told the host that I wanted to keep going because I thought I could be an asset to the group because I could say, ‘I know you won’t believe this, but it will get easier .'”

Few men attended these group meetings, Donna says, and those who only attended once or twice before walking away.

Joe had been married for 65 years when his wife died in 2012. He joined the group who sat around a large table.

“When it was his turn to speak, he said, ‘I’m Joe Teague and I lost my wife, and this is my sister-in-law. She lost her sister,” Donna says. “I was like, ‘Isn’t that nice?'”

Joe, she found out in a brief conversation, was the nephew of her high school choir director in Tulsa.

“I thought, ‘Now, what are the chances of that happening?'” Donna says. “It was just a shock to me that there was someone I had a connection to through my high school choir teacher.”

Joe was back at the support group about a month later – again the only male there – and he asked the women for advice.

“He said, ‘Ladies, I really wish I had someone to talk to, but I don’t know how to go about it,'” Donna said.

Donna carried business cards with her to hand out to people interested in private music lessons, and she gave one to Joe that day. She told him he could call her whenever he needed to talk.

“He didn’t call me, and I just gave up,” she said. “Three months later, out of the blue, he called.”

He asked her if she remembered him, and she replied that of course she did.

They met for breakfast and they talked for an hour.

“We had so much in common,” she says.

Both are Baptists, although active in different churches. Joe was a member of Geyer Springs Baptist Church and Donna’s church was Calvary Baptist. Both love music; Donna has been an organist at Le Calvary for 45 years and directs the Bell Choir there.

When they had finished lunch the first time, he asked if they could have breakfast again the following week.

“We kept dating, and we had a really good time, so we kept dating, and then we started dating,” she says.

A few months later, they timidly broached the subject of marriage.

“I said I would probably never get married again. I was fine. I had a nice house. My eldest son lives not far from there. I was very happy, I was working at the children’s hospital when my first husband passed away and I was very happy there,” she says. “I was busy on the weekends.

She recognized, however, that there was a void.

“I had a full-time job, but at 5 p.m. when I got home from work, people were driving on their sidewalks, driving down their driveways and closing their doors. I was totally alone, and that’s what touched me,” she says. “I watched TV for four hours every night and then went to bed. That was it.”

She didn’t really want to go out, but she missed having a companion.

“It’s just lonely,” she says, “especially when you’ve been married as long as I have to someone who shares my passion for music and so on.”

The same goes for Joe, who found himself not alone.

They weren’t sure about the logistics of the wedding — he had three children and she had two, and merging their households and adult families seemed daunting.

“He said, ‘I think we should live in your house because it’s newer than mine, and I think we should go to your church because you’re so active with your music schedule,'” she says. “So that’s what we did.”

They married on April 22, 2013, in the backyard of Joe’s house, surrounded by his blooming azaleas. A mutual friend who was a minister officiated.

“The birds were singing and the flowers were beautiful,” she says.

Donna and Joe have traveled since their marriage and regularly shop together. They like to dine out; they exercise five days a week at a local church; and they go to the Bryant Senior Center to dance to live country music one morning a week.

“He’s 95 and I’m 81. We have an unspoken agreement that the car has to leave the driveway at least once a day,” she says. “We love going there.”

Most of the time, they enjoy each other’s company.

“I wasn’t looking for a partner at all. It just happened,” she says. “I truly believe that God in heaven had something to do with our coming together.”

The first time I saw my future spouse:

She says: “I thought he was tall and handsome.”

He says: “I had no opinion.”

Our wedding day:

She says: “We packed our bags and went to Hot Springs. We strolled lazily through Garvan Gardens before checking into our hotel.

He says: “I was really nervous.”

My advice for a long and happy marriage:

She says: “Put the other person first – their wants, their needs, their health. I type up a whole list for the week and put it on the fridge so we can both look at it and know what’s going on. So I say, ‘Joe, what are we going to do today?’ »

He says: “Love your wife forever and ever. It is more or less that.”