If you were to ask Joe and Debra J. how many children they have, they would probably have a hard time thinking of what number to give. To give an accurate count, they would need to include not only the six children they have raised in their home, but also the countless number of individuals graciously invited into their family as one of their own.
The J’s collectively worked for thirty-four years for Wal-Mart and have obviously left a big impression on their customers and co-workers. Given the names “Joe Mama and Daddy” originally by their Wal-Mart family, the couple has become just that to many more children than those related by blood. They love adopting “kids” of any age if that means being able to share the blessings they have received.
Born and raised in Natchitoches, LA, Joe and Debra grew up across the street from one another. The two lived in their hometown until 1997 when the J’s decided to move to OKC to be closer to Debra’s family. Her family had been reconnected only ten years earlier after Debra’s long-lost brother found her from an old address on a letter he had kept from his childhood. Debra had not seen any of her immediate family since she was nine months old beyond the grandmother who raised her.
Active members, and recently voted King and Queen, of Tabitha Baptist Church, both Joe and Debra enjoy spending time with other members in their community. They also look for any opportunity to serve those in need of love and care.
“I had a woman come up to me and tell me, ‘Do you know what kind of man you married?’ She told me that when she couldn’t pay for her groceries that week, Joe said, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ and paid for it. She said she’d tried to come back by later to repay him but that ‘he didn’t know what she was talking about,’” Debra said. “That’s the kind of man I married.”
“My biggest desire is to cook and feed the hungry,” Debra said. And that she undoubtedly does. Debra had been busy this past week taking care of a neighbor who had recently lost her son, making sure to bring food and whatever else needed.
In recent years, Joe has been increasingly limited on what he is able to do. This Vietnam veteran served four years in active service as an ammunition and chemical specialist, which during a grenade accident in basic training left him vision impaired. Now, Joe is down to only ten percent of vision in his right eye, causing him to retire from Wal-Mart two years ago. “I don’t miss the work so much, it’s really the people. That’s what it’s about,” Joe said.
Debra and Joe do all that they can for their friends and family and that’s no exclusive circle. All it takes is spending an hour or two with this couple to see the compassion they have for others. Through thirty-eight years of marriage it is hard to say how many people their lives have touched, but one thing that is certain is that even with set-backs there is no limit to their love.
Rebuilding Together OKC will be working on the Jackson’s home during Capacity Corps MLK Work Week. We have already outfitted the home with railings along stairs and throughout the house to make the home safer for Mr. J.