A GOOD LIFE AND IT’S MINE By: JoEllen Walling Dale
I met many of you at Burnet Elementary or Bonham Junior High before attending Permian in the 9th grade. I was an average student with a special interest in socializing. I had made most my core group of friends by the time I was in Bonham.
In the seventh grade, I started playing tennis and had a great time being part of a team and learning to advance in my sport. Jana Hill and I learned together. We had so many great times. We were, also, very good friends with Mary Ramsey. The three of us have kept in touch through the years and see each other several times a year.
My father died, suddenly, the middle of 9th grade. From that day forward everything was different. My mother was devastated. It was a time when most families didn’t talk about sickness and dying. We fell into that category. My friends wanted to help but had no idea what to say. So, I just stuffed my feelings and tried to pretend everything was normal. But, it wasn’t normal. All my friends had a mother and father. I started feeling abandoned, first by my father then later by my mother.
If you don’t remember me past our sophomore year, it is because I wasn’t there. My mother met a man from Austin. He had a lot to offer my mother and myself. I, of course, didn’t care about that. They said we will get you a car, a puppy and everything will be fine. I was only concerned about leaving my home, friends and moving to a place where I knew no one. I hadn’t even gotten through the grief of losing my father. I fought and pleaded with my mother to stay until I finished high school. That didn’t work, so, I tried convincing her to let my live with Mary, until I graduated. Nothing could convince her, so, we moved to Austin the summer of 1965, before my junior year. I was so lonely and unhappy. My grades suffered and I was sick with mononucleosis and missed almost a month of school. Looking back, I think the sickness was caused by my depression. I did play on the tennis team. On the tennis court, was the only time I felt halfway happy. I refused to accept my new step-father and stayed angry with my mother. Looking back, I know that my mother did the best she could to take care of us. Her husband was a wonderful man and provider. It took me about a year to come around. As I allowed myself to get to know him, I grew to love him. At my request, I ended up at San Marcos Academy mid-term my junior year. It is a co-ed boarding school. I knew 2 kids from Odessa going to school there. I thought if I went there I would, at least, have two friends. This turned out to be a good experience. However, I still missed Odessa and was very upset when Permian won the State Championship in football and I wasn’t there to be a part of it.
I made friends at the academy. My roommate became my best friend and we still correspond, today. These were the most traumatic and toughest years of my life, thus far. The loneliness and depression were almost too much to bear. In retrospect, I think the experience made me a stronger person, a better mother and friend.
Now for a brief summary of the rest of the years. I have been an exercise enthusiast forever. After tennis, I started running then added long distance cycling. I taught aerobic dance for seven years in my 30’s. I feel in love with snow skiing. I loved hiking andsailing. Now Palates and the gym are all I can do, due to injuries. That’s another story. I graduated from Texas State University with a degree in marketing. I married when I was 22 to an Austin native.
We had, our only child, Ashley, in 1975. Her father and I divorced after 17 years of marriage. Ashley and I have an awesome relationship, and both of us are excited about her wedding in December. . Billy and I are so delighted for her and husband to be.
I married four years later to a New Yorker (what a New Yorker?). He had three children who thought they hated Ashley and me. Their mother was unable to care for the children. Sometimes there and sometimes not. We raised his 3 kids the best we could. I learned a whole lot about being a step-parent. It was the most difficult job I ever had. I did lots of research and our church helped me to become a good step-parent. It took about 5 years for our blended family to bond. Unfortunately, their dad and I divorced after 13 years for other reasons.
Four years divorced, I asked God to put a man in my life and it would be great if he was from west Texas. My prayer was answered and Billy Dale appeared in the spring of 2005. We hadn’t seen each other in 40 years. We felt like we already knew each other. In Junior High and High school we lived four doors down from each other, went to the same church, our parents knew each other, and we had so many friends in common. It was if God and Billy helped me return to my roots. After a short time dating, we married later that year in November. We celebrated our 11th anniversary last November and feel very blessed to have found one another.
Billy has two children. His oldest, Sarah, has two children. They are in north Dallas area. His son Brad lives here in Austin.
I have been in Real Estate most of my adult life.
I started my own company in 1987. Ashley now works with me and these years, with her at my side, have been the best.
I have so much gratitude today. God has blessed me. I am so excited about the reunion. It will be wonderful to see old friends and meet new ones.