For better, for worse: When teenage sweethearts reunite, then comes Hurricane Harvey

Joy and Jordy Holly faced heartbreak after heartbreak to get to each other. After meeting as teenagers, losing touch, and then embarking on completely separate lives filled with love and adversity, the universe brought them together again. When the day finally came for them to get married on the Texas coast on September 2nd, 2017, the universe had other plans. Enter Hurricane Harvey, the Category 4 storm that hit the Texas coast and caused devastating floods and destruction.

Let’s start at the beginning. I’ve heard you and Jordy have quite the love story. Tell me how y’all met.

We met in the summer of 1985 at church camp. Kids came from all over Texas. He was from Corpus Christi and I came with a group from Austin. Jordy tells me he saw me as — and forgive me, this sounds funny — but as the popular, beautiful girl. But he didn’t realize how cute he was! We became a couple right away. And we got so lucky that somebody took our picture and we both had copies! Isn’t that amazing?

That’s so lucky! So what happened after that?

After camp, I did go visit him in Corpus and then he visited me during Spring Break of ‘86. But at the time, there wasn’t internet so no email or texting, so as you would imagine, we did not stay connected. But he said he kept a picture of me up for two years afterwards and it made other girls mad. He said he never forgot me and never got me out of his mind.

But life moved on. He joined the military and did three tours of duty and got married and had quite a life. I was happily married to my first husband, Brian, for 12 years and we got news that he had terminal cancer. There was nothing they could do. We did fight it but we decided that chemo wasn’t a life worth living. I literally lived with him through his dying. That was obviously really rough. I’m a spiritual person and I stayed spiritually grounded and I felt my feelings and they were awful.

I was living in a house that literally got bigger with his absence.

That’s so tough. I’m so sorry.

I had been crying every day for over a year. Brian had passed about six months prior and I was living in a house that literally got bigger with his absence. I was there by myself. I was really just trying to take care of myself, love myself, I knew I had a lot of healing to do. I was not going to bars or looking online for romance in any way, but I was certainly lonely. I was just trying to survive.

Then one day my friend, Dana, who I had gone to church camp with way back when, hurt herself and was home from work bored and got on Facebook and started looking for people we went to church camp with. And she found Jordy! Dana told Jordy that I was having a hard time and he told her that he had also had his heart broken and was now single. He told her that he never got over me and that I terrify him! [laughs] He asked if he could contact me.

I told him I wasn’t trying to date him and he was so warm about that. He had PTSD from the war and has been to therapy, so he’s really sensitive to feelings. It just warmed my heart that we could both be real. Then he started contacting me every day. He had the best voice and he was so funny.

I had been crying every day for over a year and suddenly I’m laughing my ass off every day. He was hilarious! It was just what I needed. The first time he called me, I knew he had had a crush on me, so I told him, “Do not fall in love with me.” I’m so glad he didn’t listen.

How sweet!

Yeah, I was the one who ended up saying “I love you” to him. After that, I invited him to come visit me during Spring Break since I’m a school teacher. It was 30 years to the day since he visited me in 1986 for my Spring Break. I really did feel like I loved him for his humor and luscious vocabulary and sensitivity. But since we had only been talking on the phone, I said to myself, “Please let him be cute!” [laughs] But then I decided that even if he wasn’t cute, I was still going to do this relationship because of his insides.

We got really hurt by life, but we wanted to love, and life brought us together.

And let me tell you, he’s really cute. He’s really fine. Thank goodness…I didn’t have to sacrifice! He was going to stay for a week, then he stayed for an extra week, then he just stayed. We got married a year and a half later.

What was it like to start over again? Was it like no time had passed?

It still felt like us at the heart. We’re both very mature and have had long careers, but there’s a part of us that are very much in touch with our inner teenagers. Those two kids are here today. We got really hurt by life, but we wanted to love, and life brought us together.

So, how did he propose?

It was really sweet. He proposed Christmas Eve in front of my whole family and his 18-year-old daughter. He wanted to say to all of us, “I want all of y’all. I take this whole family, will you take my whole family?” He knew how protective they are of me after everything I went through.

What were your initial plans for your wedding?

Well he grew up in Corpus Christi and I love the beach. The wedding was going to be at the beautiful Corpus Christi Water Gardens and a really cool, classy setting for the reception. It was right across from everyone’s hotel, so it was perfect. But on the other side of the hotel was the marina.

My family was calling me saying they didn’t feel safe driving down there.

Oh no. So what was your mindset as Hurricane Harvey rolled in?

We had gone through the first hit of the hurricane and everything was fine, so we thought it was still going to happen. Electricity was on and water was okay. The place we were going to have the rehearsal dinner, the roof was blown off. So we scrambled to find another place, but then Thursday happened. I go to the grocery store and there’s a crazy long line of people and my family is calling me saying they didn’t feel safe driving down there. It just got decided: Corpus is off. And we’re going to do this in mom’s backyard in Austin.

Wow. So how did you pull it all together?

I’ve never felt so loved in my life. It really turned out to be a gift. I had my big nephews — these Coast Guard, Air Force guys — and my brother is a retired police detective, and they’re hanging pink roses in the backyard. Kirsten, my step sister, is scrambling to pick up food and cake from Central Market. Everybody is cleaning and doing everything they can. My dad had flown in from Arkansas and was in Corpus and Jordy’s mom, who doesn’t drive, was stuck in Corpus with Jordy’s daughter. So my dad got a rental car and picked up these people he’d never met and drove across Texas in a gas crisis to come to this thing.

Oh my gosh.

I had been so mad and disappointed and I just prayed that I could embrace the situation and I really did. It was amazing. Life is so like that, when you allow it to be. If I had felt sorry for myself all weekend, I would have missed it.

How important is was for everyone to make this special really showed me how much they value our relationship and how much they honor our union.

What ended up being your favorite part of your wedding?

The love that was so evident from family. It’s one thing to say “I love you,” but it’s another thing to show it. They all saw what I went through with Brian’s cancer and the last thing they wanted was for me to hurt. They know that Jordy put life back in my eyes. They love that Jordy put a pep in my step again.

That’s really beautiful. How would you say the last-minute plans changed how you and Jordy saw your big day?

I told Jordy, “I don’t care where…I just want to marry you.” It really brought it to the heart. He felt the same way. We were getting married September 2nd, 2017, darnit! It really reminded me how much I wanted be his wife. All that matters is I love him and I want to commit to him.

We’re 50 years old and when you make a lifetime commitment at that age, it really does feel like until you die. You hope that when you’re younger, but being this age really puts it in perspective.

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