Elvis Presley was the undisputed number one pop star in the entire world between the years of 1956 and 1960, right about when Jack Lewis, the interview subject for next week’s cover story, was 16. An impressionable age, sure, but from what the history books tell us, it was impossible not to be affected by Elvis during that time. Jack started a rock band, as he tells it, goofily and sloppily imitating the King. Later, Jack would join the Army, forget about music, and focus instead on leading a squadron. It was in his line of duty, though, that Jack met Judie.
I was bummed when writing the story that I couldn’t find a way to work in the story of how Jack and Judie met. It is a charming one, though, and it dawned on me that today is a silly-sentimental holiday, and theirs is a wink and a flirt of a story that could be just heartwarming enough for you to entertain, while you’re feeling silly-sentimental.
It was in the Carolinas, and Judie was working in a tall office building downtown. The building was suddenly abuzz when an Army vehicle turned on the street, catching the eye of many an idle receptionist, and inspiring many girls to lean out the windows to wave and shout support to the troops. Jack was on an important mission, sitting atop that vehicle. He needed to deliver a specific weapon (that Jack says, quite exasperated, is simply too complicated to explain) to that exact building, a couple floors above Judie’s head. Jack was on the back of the truck, controlling and guarding the weapon, but also boyishly using the telescope atop it to peer out at all the bright-eyed girls excitedly vying for his squadron’s attention. It was through that eye-piece that he first spotted her: A woman so cute, you’d wait for hours outside a building to learn her name.
And that’s what he did. He completed his mission and then asked around to find out when people in that building typically left for the day. The answer was 5, so he passed the time, waiting for her to emerge. And emerge she did, except not as one, but two. Judie’s identical twin Trudie also worked in the building. Surprised but not discouraged, Jack followed the pair into a store. Soon after, he stopped them and introduced himself.
To this day, Jack is not certain which woman he saw first, but it doesn’t matter. Judie stepped forward, more vocal and more interested in the military man, who she proclaims with simple sincerity is still “the most handsome man she’s ever seen.” They were married not years, but days later and now in their early 70s, are as drawn together as ever.
Next week, I’ll drop the romance stuff, I promise, and you can read instead about how Jack turned back to a different brand of music that led this sweet couple to start and maintain what many regard as Florida’s longest-running bluegrass jam. For now, enjoy this video taken at the jam last year: