Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A little voice led her toward love

Jo-An Noojin and Bill Hendry lost their first spouses to cancer after marriages of at least 50 years. They found each other at a church function.

Photo courtesy of the Hendry Family

Jo-An Noojin and Bill Hendry lost their first spouses to cancer after marriages of at least 50 years. They found each other at a church function.


Jo-An Noojin talks to God most every day. In their many conversations, "sometimes the still, small voice" gets lost, she says, or she's just not listening. She is a devoted Sunday churchgoer, but it was a Wednesday in January 2007 when Jo-An heard and heeded a divine message to attend the midweek service. Bill Hendry, a man she had never met, was there that night, too, a recent widower seeking social as well as spiritual fulfillment.

• • •

Realtor Bill Hendry, 79, joined the Wednesday night regulars at Davis Islands Baptist Church after his wife, Ordy, died of cancer in June 2006. They had been married 51 years.

For six bucks, the Tampa native shared a hot meal with a couple of hundred friendly faces before the service. It wasn't the baked ziti or chicken Parmesan he was after.

"It's not the cooking, it's the eating by yourself," said Bill, who opened Hendry & Associates real estate and investment services with his wife in 1987, which they later sold to Tam-Bay Realty.

Jo-An, 73, a charter member of the church, lost her husband of 50 years, Bob Noojin, to lung cancer in 2005. She is not a Wednesday worshiper, she said, and planned to go out to dinner that particular day with her daughter.

"I'd had my hair done,'' she recalled, "and usually would have gone home and changed into something comfortable."

Waiting for her daughter's call, Jo-An said she heard — and dismissed — a voice in her head.

"It said, 'You could go to church,' " she said.

An hour later, she heard it again. "I thought it must be the Holy Spirit talking to me,'' she said.

She decided to go. A friend told her to get there early to find a parking place.

"I told God I was leaving if there wasn't a parking place,'' she said with a grin.

A space awaited her … and Cupid, in the form of Carol Mathews Smith, whom she had met on a group trip to Venice. Smith had already figured Jo-An would be a good match for Bill, so she was happy to see her that night. Greeting her, she pumped Jo-An for information: "Do you date? Do you want to? Do you know Bill Hendry?''

Jo-An answered "no" to all three queries. But Smith pledged her matchmaking skills anyway.

Jo-An didn't have to wait long. Smith suddenly spied Bill across the crowded lobby and pulled him over to meet Jo-An.

They exchanged polite hellos. They didn't sit together, and she didn't meet his glance when she exited.

"I walked right by him,'' Jo-An said, "until I heard 'Slow down' in my head — the Holy Spirit again."

She stopped. "I'll call you," he said.

"Please do,'' she said to her surprise. "I looked around to see who said that.''

That evening, she took out her journal and wrote: I don't want to date or marry. I don't want to take care of anyone again.

Then, she said, God told her, "This really isn't about you."

Days later, over dinner at Bonefish Grill, Bill and Jo-An got to know each other. They talked about being caregivers and of grieving. She realized Ordy had been in her community Bible study group years ago. They each have three children, and between them, 11 grandchildren. She's artistic; he plays tennis.

Neither had been on a date for 50 years.

That night, Jo-An's journal entry said: I hope we can just be friends.

In April, Bill asked Jo-An to join his family for Easter brunch at the yacht club.

She declined. "I wasn't ready for that,'' she said.

But she couldn't sleep. She called early the next morning to say she had changed her mind.

"I suppose we became an item then,'' said Bill. They would listen to music and go to movies and baseball games together.

Often, Jo-An fixed dinner at her Palma Ceia townhouse.

"Then he'd go home to a big, empty house,'' she said. Bill lives on 5 acres at the southern tip of Bayshore Boulevard, fronting Hillsborough Bay. His parents bought the property in 1945.

"My son Haynes lives next door and he would see my headlights coming in at night,'' said Bill.

Last July, when Bill asked Jo-An to marry him, Haynes heard the news at the yacht club.

"When were you going to tell me?'' he teased his father.

"He was going to church so much he was either the preacher or going after somebody,'' Haynes said, obviously delighted for him.

Two dozen family members witnessed their Jan. 3 wedding at South Tampa Fellowship in Ballast Point, formerly the Davis Islands church. And that's where you'll find the newlyweds Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at or (813) 226-3332.

A little voice led her toward love 07/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 17, 2008 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates


    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears


    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'


    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]