I have friends and relatives who fell in love in high school. They married and actually remain happily married today. Does that make our heads spin in today’s world? There are people who spend their lives with that person who made them fall in love decades before for the first time and whose relationships lasted through high school, college, and graduate school. They marry and their marriages are successful to this day. The ingredients are not always the same. But, when you find the essential elements of couples who make high school love relationships work for the long run, this phenomenon really does make sense.
Jamie (James) DeFinnis graduated from Berwick High School. We in The Back Mountain know well this school as the Berwick Bulldogs. As a high school freshman and sophomore, Jamie DeFinnis played on the Bulldog golf team. He readily admits he was good at golf but just wasn’t going to be a standout. At 16 years of age, he was stopped for speeding. “ I remember well not ever wanting to disappoint my parents”, Jamie recalls. Many teens often feel their need to have “make-ups”, new votes of confidence that will assure parents that their kids are on the right track again. If that results in a positive recognition and outcome for both teens and parents, then those lessons can be invaluable. For Jamie DeFinnis, that was the case and he admits these issues were turning points in his life.
Cross-country became Jamie’s new school sport which fueled his competitive spirit. He began training for the Berwick High School team in his junior and senior years and, through hard work, became the number one runner for Berwick High School. That distinction awarded him a spot on the Division I Bucknell University Cross Country team after graduating from Bewick High School in 1991.
Anyone who follows regional and even national cross-country or marathon running has heard of “Run for the Diamonds” in Berwick, Pennsylvania. “Berwick Run for the Diamonds” is a local nine-mile run starting and ending on Market Street in the small town of Berwick, but has national recognition.” Top runners have been at this annual event every Thanksgiving Day since 1908. Everyone in Berwick has heard of Bill Bull. Bill was Jamie’s high school cross country coach and a seasoned, recognized competitor in the Run for the Diamonds. According to Jamie DeFinnis, “Everyone he coached and every runner who knew Bill wanted to beat his time at the Diamond Race.” In Jamie’s junior year at Bucknell, he entered “The Diamond” with the intent of beating his former coach’s time. Jamie came short by only eight seconds of taking away Coach Bull’s milestone. That winning streak ended for Coach Bull in 1994 when Jamie DeFinnis beat his former coach in that Thanksgiving Run for the Diamonds. This was historic for Jamie DeFinnis, and it was a day he could put his “make-ups” behind. Jamie finished at Bucknell University with a degree in economics and a minor in science. He went on to Temple University School of Dentistry. Dental School was a natural progression for Jamie. Both his father and brother are both dentists. His father has a dental practice in Berwick and his brother owns a practice in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.
Jodee Wargo-DeFinnis, Jamie DeFinnis’ wife, is in every way his partner and is in no way less accomplished. They have been together since her freshman year and his junior year at Berwick High School. This couple, who will be married 15 years in July, had their first date on May 5, 1990. While attending one of Jamie’s friend’s baseball games, Jamie asked Jodee if she would go to the movies with him sometime. Jodee was a freshman and Jamie was a junior. Jodee’s parents had a rule: no dating before you are sixteen years of age. But, Jodee pleaded with her parents and they made an exception. They knew her future husband’s parents and said, “It would be ok.” It was nineteen ninety and the movie they decided on was Pretty Woman. That sounds so long ago, but then, my first movie date was, “The Exorcist “circa 1973.
Jodee Wargo-DeFinnis graduated from Berwick High School in 1993. She accomplished her educational pursuits in a roundabout way; and everything she has studied has benefited her and her husband’s business today. After graduating in 1993 from Berwick High School, Jodee opted to go to Penn State, Hazleton, and took some general courses to get her feet wet. When her second year at Penn State started, she took a leap of faith with something she was not at all comfortable or familiar with; she jumped into electrical engineering courses. At the same time her future husband, Jamie, applied and was accepted to Temple Dental School. To be closer to Jamie, Jodee decided to apply and finish her studies at Temple University. She was awarded a degree at Temple and graduated in May of 1997. She interviewed with AT&T for a systems engineering position and began working in Holmdel, New Jersey. At that time, AT&T offered classes through Steven’s Institute of Technology, and it was there that Jodee received her MS in Project Management. IBM bought out Jodee’s division of AT&T in 1998, so now she was employed by IBM. Meanwhile, Jamie graduated from Temple Dental School in May of 1999 and that year both Jamie and Jodee moved back to Berwick. Fortunately, Jodee was able to work remotely for IBM and went back to school at Bloomsburg University pursuing a degree in early childhood education, which she thought would be invaluable for a future mother. She received that degree in May of 2003.
A lot happened before Jodee and Jamie walked down the isle in July 2000. Early that same year, an opportunity arose in The Back Mountain for Jamie to work in an existing dental practice since the dentist had fallen ill. The day that his interview was scheduled it had to be postponed because the owner, Dr. Lawley had passed away. So in February of 2000 Jamie began commuting from Berwick to practice at the Carverton Road office Jamie, within a very short amount of time, became the sole dentist managing a busy office. Knowing they wanted to raise a family, both Jodee and Jamie had to decide where to plant their roots. The Back Mountain was very similar to their hometown of Berwick. They knew it was a closedknit community that was quiet and safe. They also believed there would be more educational opportunities for their children. So, with all of these advantages, Jamie decided to purchase the Trucksville practice in June of 2000…only days before their wedding. While Jodee and Jamie spent a three-week honeymoon in Hawaii and Las Vegas, the Carverton practice went through a complete remodel. When they returned, the new practice was launched. Jodee began working along side of Jamie. He wanted her to learn the business. It was at this time when people began searching online for healthcare choices so Jodee began learning the technology side of the practice. For the past 15 years, she has managed the technology and marketing aspects of Back Mountain Dental.
Life is busy for the DeFinnis family. They have three young daughters: Isabella, age 9, who loves soccer; Nadia, age 7, who loves basketball and Mila, age 3, who loves gymnastics. Jamie will be celebrating 15 years this July as owner of Back Mountain Dental with Jodee at his side. Both Jodee and Jamie believe moving from Berwick to The Back Mountain was the best decision they’ve ever made. High school, college, dental school and graduate school; this relationship’s journey with its time restraints, studying restraints and distance restraints has stood the test of time.