His name is Joe McDaniel Duncan. Not Joseph. Just Joe. Sometimes he has been weatherman Joe, Dr. Joe, Joey, and Muscles to some of his friends.
As of March 1, 2020, we celebrated 21 years of our partnership at the law firm of Burch, Porter & Johnson. How do you just say, I’m walking away from this life I’ve known for 54 years. For me, it has been 32 years in the legal field. In the back of my mind I knew this day would come. Joe Duncan is retiring and next week is his last week. It’s time. Time for him to enjoy life with his wife, Lee, who has become one of my closest, dearest friends. I could write an entire blog about Lee and how she has become my prayer partner, my 2 a.m. friend, and the best older sister a person could ever had. I cherish the girl time we have together!
- 21 Birthdays. Birthdays filled with unique gifts, love, and lunches at Paulette’s where K-pie is (“IS” because I don’t intend to stop) always shared between the three of us (me, Joe, and Lee). Unsweet tea, just like me.
- 21 Christmases. So many bittersweet for the both of us, but they always spent most of their time in North Carolina (Lake Toxaway) and I was so glad when the first of the year came around. That meant a new year and a new beginning.
- 21 Years of firm celebrations. The one thing I love about Burch, Porter & Johnson is that we like to celebrate and eat! It doesn’t matter what the occasion. If it was attorney/legal assistant related (Assistant’s Day, Bosses Day, Valentines, Christmas, someone’s birthday), we were never embarrassed to sit next to each other.
- 21 Years of arguments and apologies. If there is one thing I learned working for an honest, ethical man is when you make a mistake, own it, no excuses and move on. But sometimes, there is just something in you that makes you say NO! If you know me, I have done that plenty over the last 21 years. But you can always say no in a loving way such as, “Don’t you think it would be better said this way?” I can count on one hand the number of times we have actually argued and he has made me fuming mad. When he tried to make up, I always knew it because he would come to my ledge with the biggest smile and say something like, “Your hair is pretty today.” What? Go away!
The one thing I respect most about this man is that when he knows he is wrong, I do hear “I’m sorry, you were right”. But it is then followed by a joke because it doesn’t happen often.
As I think about Joe’s retirement and how he will fill his time, I know what he will do.
He will enjoy more walks with his two dogs Holly and Lily who happen to be such a big part of his heart (and mine too).
He will be able to travel to see his grandsons play their ballgames, spend more birthdays, and holidays. They need their Papa Joe!
Joe and Lee will spend so much time at their home in North Carolina. It’s beautiful and it is where they rest and enjoy friends who own houses in the mountains. They have blessed us by allowing us to escape Memphis and spend time there and the view from the lanai is breathtaking. I have so many pottery pieces in my home from there!
Lastly, he will have all the time in the world to play as much golf as his heart desires! Travel for golf, watch golf, take lessons for golf, read about golf, you name it! More importantly, walk onto the course from his backyard and play golf with Lee. There is the Lee and Joe Duncan Rhodes (College) Invitational and they both will be able to take a more active role in the women’s golf tournaments and travel. He and Lee put so much time and love into the program and the girls at Rhodes College.
There will be changes in so many lives. I will hear a sneeze, a cough. No, that’s not his because I know it. Laughter from down the hall in a conference room. No, that’s not his because I can hear it all over the office. When he laughs, he makes everyone smile or laugh too. When a client walks into the office, there is always a handshake or a hug. Something that has been lost.
My alarm clock will not go off at 5:30 a.m. anymore. I know he won’t be at his desk at 6 or 7 a.m. and we won’t start working at 7:30 a.m. My phone won’t start dinging with emails from him around 6:30 a.m. because I have a special notification for his emails. Actually, there will not be the catching up about the weekend, sports, and everything we have going on in our lives or the list of things that need to be done for the day. He listens and we laugh. Sometimes there are tears. He lets me talk about Trey because he understands. He lost a son. He walked me through that nightmare. I could not have survived without his guiding hand.
I remember the first time I ever walked in Joe Duncan’s office and I saw a framed picture of Isaiah 40:31. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence that we both had the same favorite scripture.
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up as eagles with wings.”
There has never been a time that we were uncomfortable talking about what God was doing in our lives or the world around us. Matter of fact, without his advice, I know I would have made a lot of bad decisions along the way.
As odd as it may sound, the thing I will miss most is over the years we have been able to pick up on how each other feels at first glance in the morning.
Lisa: “Do you have a headache?”
Joe: “YES!,I woke up with it and couldn’t go back to sleep. So I just came on in to the office.”
Lisa: “Have you taken anything?”
Joe: “Not yet, but I’m about to with my coffee. Is yours hurting?”
Lisa: “Just a little. Is it going to rain?” Joe immediately turns to his computer.
Joe: “Let’s look at the radar.”
Joe and I both suffer from migraines. We have both tried every concoction and recommended treatment known to man. I cannot emphasize how good God is to have given me a person to work for who understands when you say, “Okay, I’m done, my brain can’t take anymore.”
Funny fact is that before I came to Burch, Porter, a friend of mine told me that I shouldn’t come work for him. I couldn’t imagine why. I told them I wanted to try because sometimes it just takes the right people to click. Who knew the bond that would be created between our families? During that time, I learned he was only four years out from grieving the loss of his son which was never talked about. Never. Until I lost my own.
When I started, he instructed me to put drafts he needed to read on the edge of his desk. I remember quietly walking in his office because his back would be to me and sliding the paper on the edge. I think I ran out of the office before he could see me. Friends in the office said that he had taken a previous assistant’s typewriter away until she got her filing done. Seriously? Bahaha! (Yes, we were even using the dos system then.)
His office was on one side of the building and mine was on the other. But there was NO mistaking that voice calling loudly, “LeeSA.” (Oh, crap). And I ran saying, “I’m coming!” That call down the hall has still continued to this day. And I still go running. Respect.
We moved into a new building several years later and that is where we have been for many years. We would work late, prepare for divorce trials, will contests, but something developed during those hard-working years. Joe and I became what he called a well-oiled machine. I knew what he wanted before he asked, could finish his sentences, remembered phone numbers and names for him, and it made his practice, I hope, a little easier. I was (am) his assistant, paralegal, court runner, any title he needed at the time. We were (are) partners. After losing Trey, I looked back on that time of first working for Joe and it made sense because I was doing exactly what he was doing, just trying to work and make it through the day.
God has a purpose for all things. There is no doubt He brought us together for many reasons and stories for both families that will last a lifetime. This well-oiled machine is being put on the shelf after a lifetime warranty of good work, replaced parts, and oil changes from time-to-time. To be honest with you, I bet you can imagine I am not dealing with this very well. I could use the prayers, as could Joe and Lee. There have been many, many tears lately and will be many next week. I guess I’m getting old because I don’t like change, especially this one. I will forever work for Lee and Joe Duncan. He is not my employer or boss – he has always been my partner, mentor, confidant, father-figure, and most of all, best friend.
Happy Birthday to the man that can tear the phone book in half and jump flat-footed onto the top of the counter at work. You will always amaze me. I love you both.
Circa Christmas 2009
4838-4796-0252, v. 1