Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
Irving ISD Athletic Director Joe Barnett admits the timing wasn’t great when he and Marilyn got married.
“It was the beginning of football season,” he said. “I was coaching in Plano; I’d just started. I was at a game on Friday night in Plano, and we drove eight hours to Corpus Christi after that. We had the rehearsal Saturday morning, the wedding Saturday night and the honeymoon Sunday morning. That was Labor Day weekend, so we turned around and then drove back to Plano. My new bride dropped me off at the school, so I could have football practice and then drove to our apartment. She likes to tell people she carried herself across the threshold.”
Yet here they are, 40 years later, still smiling like newlyweds.
It’s a relationship, says Barnett, that seemed to be ordained from their first meeting.
“I was a student at North Texas and she went to TWU,” he said. “She was a nursing student.
“We met at a party. She came with a friend of hers and I was there, and we just started talking. My mother was a nurse, so that got the conversation started. That was all it took. We were married about a year later.”
Marilyn didn’t know that much about sports, but she learned.
“Now she’s probably seen more sporting events than any other woman her age,” said Barnett. And she learned what it meant to be a coach’s wife.
“Our daughter was born in October,” Barnett continued. “And I was coaching. Both of our mothers were in town helping out during the pregnancy. I actually got to the hospital when she was in labor.
“By the time my daughter was a week old, she’d already been to three football games. I feel kind of bad - I never went to any of her birthday parties when she was growing up, because it was always during football season.”
There were other ways Marilyn had to pick up the slack while raising the couple’s two children. (Their son had the good sense to be born near Christmas two years later.)
“I taught her how to use the lawn mower; she mowed the lawn during football season. She kind of took over a lot of stuff.
“I think we have personalities that fit. Both of us just think about the other person first. We were very lucky that we ran into each other - that doesn’t happen all the time. But we worked at it, and we’ve never had any real issues.
“Bless her heart, all the things she did to make it work. The yard, the kids - without her being willing to do that, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Marilyn is now retired after decades in both hospital and public school nursing. Barnett says his wife has taken well to retirement, possibly because they have three granddaughters and a grandson living nearby. She’s also helping care for her elderly mother who recently moved to the area.
What about retirement for Barnett? A ten year veteran of the Irving ISD sports scene, he thought he’d slow down some when he moved from coaching into administration, but he doesn’t really know what the future holds.
“We’re real involved with First United Methodist Church in Coppell where we’ve belonged for 22 years. We have friends here, and this is probably where we’ll stay.
“Marilyn’s been tolerant enough to put up with me so far. I think about it when I see the wives come out and join their husbands on the field after a game. There they are, working to take care of their homes while their husbands are away.
“I think that coaches’ wives are very special.”