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Widower, pastor with 6 children found love when unexpected

November 30, 2018

CLINTON, Miss. (AP) — Jay Barfield has extra pillows on his couch.

He has candles burning throughout his home. Photos removed from drawers and displayed in frames. Three levels of comforters on his bed.

“You have to understand, my house was one step above a dorm room,” Barfield says. “It looked like the house of a guy just trying to make it through the day.”

And that’s exactly who he was when the Clarion Ledger featured Barfield, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Clinton, on Father’s Day 2017. He was a lonely, single father of six. He had lost his wife, Kim, to cancer in April 2013.

During our interview 17 months ago, he expressed hope of finding love again. But he was 56, not exactly a prime dating age. And even if he did find someone he would like to share his life with, would she be willing to handle the spotlight that goes with being a preacher’s wife?

Then along came Dixie Meadors — and her pillows and candles and “an eye for beauty that just takes your breath,” Barfield says.

Jay and Dixie married on Aug. 25.

A divorced mother of three, Dixie, too, wondered if she would ever find the man who could show her the true meaning of love.

“I was dangerously close to resigning myself to becoming one of those women who closes her heart off,” she says. “But one of my favorite things to do is take the back roads to work (from Hernando to Memphis). I like to put the radio on K-Love, and that’s my peaceful time. I look at the cows, the horses in the pasture. A barn on a cold, frosty morning. The sun glistening off a lake.

“And that’s when I have my real chats with God. I began to pray, ‘Please don’t let me be that person who shuts off her heart and misses what you might have in store for me.’ ”

‘A GOOD, DECENT GUY’

About a month after whispering that prayer for the first time, she received a call from a friend she grew up with in Greenwood —: Greg Haddon, a 57-year-old software salesman near Charlotte, North Carolina.

Haddon had a friend he wanted her to meet.

“I said, ’Dixie, he’s a godly man, a great person to talk to. I really think you would enjoy just talking to him,” Haddon recalls.

He laughs. “And then I told her, ‘Plus, the guy has no game. None. He’s not a smooth talker. He’s just a good, decent guy.’ And she really had a hard time wrapping her head around that.”

Meanwhile, Haddon was telling Jay about Dixie. Jay and Haddon had worked together — selling computer systems to banks — during the mid-1980s in Birmingham. They have remained close.

“I went through a tough divorce in 1986, and Jay mentored me through that,” says Haddon, who will celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary with his second wife in 2019. “I told him, ‘She’s a beautiful girl, inside and out. I really wish you would talk to her.’ ”

Jay and Dixie were hesitant.

Haddon “kinda wore us down about it,” Jay says, laughing.

In early November 2017, Jay and Dixie became Facebook friends.

They would notice if the other “liked” one of their posts. “Or if we really got bold, we might comment on it,” Dixie says.

Soon, they were exchanging Facebook messages.

“And then came the big step,” Jay says. “She finally said, ‘Would you like to talk on the phone?’ I wasn’t going to suggest that because I think she might have turned tail and run.”

Jay remembers during one of their first conversations, Dixie told him: “This isn’t a threat, but I just want you to know that I know people who know people . ”

Both laughed when she said it, but Jay got the message.

They began talking daily, and the conversations grew deeper with time. Jay breathed a sigh of relief when he learned she was raised Presbyterian.

“I didn’t feel the need for self-protection,” Jay said, “but I felt judicious in protecting her. But at the same time, I was not interested in perpetually shallow conversations.

“And we could tell the relationship was progressing — spiritually and along all lines. I think it made us both optimistic about the new year.”

They met face to face and had their first date Dec. 30 in Collierville, Tennessee. They went out to eat, then walked and gazed at the town square’s Christmas lights.”

The following evening, New Year’s Eve, they traveled to Jackson and ate at Saltine’s in Fondren, then went to Bravo for drinks.

“It was natural and relaxed,” Jay says. “Because we had talked so much, we already knew each other pretty well.”

‘A COOL PROPOSAL’

As their relationship grew, both experienced an “ah-ha” moment.

Jay: “We were talking one night on the phone, and I was struggling with my sermon preparation. I had done all my standard research about the passage I was going to preach about, but I just couldn’t figure out how to present it.

“She had asked me about it, and finally she said, ‘Well, what does the surrounding context of the passage tell you?’ And that was it. It gave me clarity. And I just remember thinking, ‘This chick is awesome!’ ”

Dixie: “Hearing him, and seeing him, preach for the first time definitely brought home his faith more. I know his love for Christ, and it just comes across so strongly when he’s preaching. It was huge for me to experience that ... It was important and special.”

The guy without game, as Haddon described him, pulled off a cool proposal.

Jay bought an engagement ring with two emeralds — to match her green eyes — with a diamond in the center.

“One of the drinks Dixie really likes is a Moscow Mule,” he says. “One of the ingredients you need to make it is ginger beer, and it’s sorta hard to find sometimes. But I manage to locate some. We were up at her house in Hernando, and I told her, ‘There is a surprise for you in the refrigerator.’

“She opened it and said, ‘Oh, wow, ginger beer. You are so sweet.’ She didn’t see the ring I had tied to it with a string. So, I finally took the beer, got down on one knee and said, ‘With this ring and bottle of ginger beer, I would like to ask you to marry me.’ ”

Says Haddon, only half kidding: “I was stunned when I found out they were engaged. I didn’t think the boy had it in him.”

All three of Dixie’s children are grown. The youngest is a 19-year-old sophomore at Ole Miss. (Yes, they are a split family. Dixie and her children are Rebel fans. Jay and his kids pull for Mississippi State.)

Two of Jay’s six children are at home — a senior and a junior in high school.

“All of them said the same thing — ‘We just want you to be happy.’ And that meant so much to both of us,” Jay says.

So for the time being, Jay and Dixie are managing a long distance marriage. She works in regulatory affairs with FedEx.

“She has brought so much to my life,” Jay says. “She’s not just someone to share a home with. She’s brought fire to my life, her intellect to my life. And she’s brought such beauty. Not just her physical beauty, but the little things she does around the house.

“I love how she agonizes over which pillow is just right for our bed.”

Dixie says her prayers were answered.

“Jay has brought such joy to my life. And among those many joys are levels of genuine kindness and goodness that I’d never known before.

“Now in my morning drive chats with God, I get to thank him for answering my prayers and sending Jay to me. You have no idea what a joy it is to be able to do that.”

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Information from: The Clarion Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com

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