Faces in the Crowd: Johnnie and Makayla Thompson

December 2, 2019

Makayla with her mom Toni Swiler.
Makayla and Johnnie with Family at her September wedding.
Johnny in his ’81 Chevy truck.

If ever there was a Hollywood film about a small-town love story, Johnnie and Makayla Thompson could very well find themselves cast in the leading roles.

They’ve got the looks, the personalities, and the story to go with it.

Many locals know Makayla, a ’13 Marion grad, from seeing her at the Horseshoe Bar, where she’s worked, along with her mom, Toni, since she was 13 years old.

Likewise, Johnnie, an ’08 McBain grad, grew up working and playing at his dad’s shop, Marion Truck and Auto. Johnnie’s always been the car and truck guy.

Born and raised in Marion, both Johnnie and Makayla have seen their share of ups and downs.

On September 28th, the couple celebrated their lives together by tying the knot. They shared their special day with their families: Makayla’s parents, Bryan and Toni Swiler, along with sisters Maddie and Lillian; Johnnie’s parents, John and Dixie Thompson, and brothers Willy and Craig.

On October 23rd, Makayla lost her mom, Toni, after a long battle with cancer.

But as Thanksgiving approaches, the couple still has plenty to be thankful for.

They’re thankful for their family. Their community. Their home, their cars, their friends, and their dogs.

They’re thankful for the lives that they have together, and for the upbringing that they’ve had right here in Marion.

We caught up with the newlyweds recently, and we’re thankful for that. We’re thankful that they were willing to share with us what makes this couple more than just a couple of faces in the crowd.

Marion Press: What were things like, growing up in Marion? What kept you busy?
Johnnie: Basically, work. Hobbies. I’ve just always been busy working, since Middle School and up. Worked in the shop, Marion Auto and Truck, with my dad. I don’t know what year he started the shop – it had to be 03 or 04, here in town. He had another shop before that.

MP: So you’ve been a car guy ever since you started working in the shop?
Johnnie: For the most part, before then even. Dad always had hot rods and big trucks and we’d always be out there messin’ with ‘em. Taking lawn mowers and soupin’ them up – whatever we could get our hands on.

MP: And cars still keep you busy…
Johnnie: Yep. My time off from work, I’m usually in the garage working on cars. We’ve got a Jeep Cherokee, ’81 Chevy Truck – that’s got some horsepower, an ’08 BMW – that’s the one I’m driving now. The ’81 Chevy – that’s my grandma’s truck. It’s primed, with different colors, and loud. It used to be a show truck.
The Dream Diner, for a while, had the truck on their Facebook cover; my truck doing a burnout with the Dream Diner in the background!
Makayla: We bought a house out on 19 Mile. We’ve got a little bit of acreage so he’s usually making trails in the acreage to go ride on!

MP: Where are you working now?
Johnnie: West Bay Geophysical. I’m a foreman for a seismic crew. We look for gas and oil. All in the state of Michigan – I haven’t left the state yet, working for them. They’re a prospect company. They look for their own oil, they drill their own oil – they do everything but refine it. It’s a lot of cool work. I’m a foreman of the brush crew; I’m the first guy in there, cut the trails, get the equipment through ‘em. It’s fun; it’s something different every day.

MP: Tell us about life growing up in the Swiler family?
Makayla: Three girls. Poor dad! It’s funny because [Johnnie’s] mom had three boys, and my mom had three girls. So it’s like 50/50 if we ever have kids!
Life was busy. All of us girls did a lot of sports; we were constantly in sports. My mom was one of those moms that definitely worked hard. She got up, she made us breakfast every morning. She was there for everything that she could be for – and so was my dad. All of us did sports year round; we were in band, and choir. Being twins…

MP: That’s right, you’re a twin [with Maddie]. What was that like?
Makayla: We hated it growing up. We had to share everything. But now, and the older you get, the neater it was to have somebody who was going through the same stuff. You always had somebody to talk to about what you were going through. Lillian, she’s kind of like our triplet – we’re petri dish babies! Lilli was frozen for four years, and we were all conceived at the same time.

MP: Whoa! How cool.
Makayla: So we’re all technically triplets. My mom was like, “I can’t handle three at a time!”

MP: So what kept the Swiler girls busy?
Makayla: Sports, music, and camping. We’re big outdoors people. Growing up, we’ve camped in the same place probably for the last 14 or 15 years – every first week in August we go. Now that’s also kind of a thing for us – Johnnie’s joined along. That’s kind of my parent’s thing, and all my aunts and uncles come out. A lot of people in town call it the Swiler’s hole. It’s out on the Muskegon past Church Bridge on a trail out there. Kind of unplugged, you know.

MP: How did you two meet?
Makayla: We grew up together. My mom and dad, and his mom and dad were really good friends. I mainly grew up with his brother, because we were closer in age. His brother and my sister and I, we all hung out a lot during the summers and stuff, so I saw him around… Probably about a year later, I think I Facebook messaged him – something dumb like that – and so we just started hanging out. And I haven’t left his side since!

MP: So she was stalking you!
Makayla: He came in and ordered a to-go pizza one time from the bar, when I was working in the kitchen, and I messaged him, and I said, “Hey, how was your pizza?”

MP: And he’s like, “Do you do this to everyone who orders here?”
Makayla: Thankfully he didn’t ask me that! Our first date, we went out two-tracking and we got a flat tire. I was two minutes late for my curfew and my mom was so mad. So it was a joke from then on – have her home [on time].
I don’t know if she ever believed me if it was a flat tire or not – but it was!
Johnnie: We ended up leaving that Jeep out in the middle of the woods.
Makayla: We did. My sister, and Jeb Covert – we were out, and he had a two-door tiny truck, and we were all crammed in the back seat riding into town to go get something.

MP: And you two recently got married; congrats!
Makayla: Yes, September 28th, finally! Because October was seven years together, so it was about time! It was really neat, because my little sister turned 21 on the 24th, so she got to celebrate with us on the 28th. So she had fun; we all did. It was a good time. We got married out at our house, so that has some sentimental value.

MP: You guys lived in Florida for three years. What made you move back to Marion?
Makayla: When momma got diagnosed with cancer. I moved up here. I had had a feeling, like six months before she got diagnosed. One day I looked at Johnnie, and said, “If something ever happens to my family, I’m going to go back up.” So my mom called me one day, and said, “It could be these three things – I’ll let you know when I find out.” So when she called and told me that she was diagnosed with cancer, I said, I’m going back up.
You have that hope that it’s only going to be so long of a treatment. I told Johnnie, I don’t know how long I’m going to go up for, but I’ll come back down; you stay down here, and I’ll stay up there.
I got a little cabin up here. I was up here six months, and it finally got to the point where Johnnie was like, ‘Listen, I’ll just come back up. I’m tired of doing this apart thing.’

MP: Who have been your role models in life?
Makayla: My mom. Definitely. My mom was always my hero. She was always there. And definitely my dad too – they’re both very hard-working people. I was raised in a working woman home. My mom did everything she could; she worked all the time; my dad worked all the time. She’s definitely one of those people who you knew how she felt about everything. She was very respectful, but she was very in your face – if she had an opinion, she’d let you know.

Just the way she interacted with people – I’ve always looked up to her because of that. The way she worked at the bar; the relationships that she’d make with people. She had people from downstate that came up every year, and they’d ask: “How’s your mom doing?” And I could tell her what they drank, and what they looked like, and she’d be like: “Oh, I know who you’re talking about.”

Johnnie: My dad. He’s always pushed me to be a better person, and do the right thing. He’s taught me a lot of stuff along the way, too. Made sure I’ve done right. Learned a lot of good work ethic along the way.

MP: What do you enjoy the most about being a part of the Marion community?
Makayla: I just enjoy the fact that you know everybody. And when something happens to the community, we all band together and help each other out. Especially with my mom. I don’t know how many people, when she first got sick, just came together and helped our family out. It brings tears to your eyes, how heartwarming the community can be. That’s my favorite part. That’s what I missed the most when we were in Florida – just the people.

MP: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Makayla: Live your life for you. There’s so many people, [with the attitude] that this is what they feel they should do because this is what everybody says, especially living in a small town. It goes back to being passionate about what you do. Make the decisions that you think are best for yourself – don’t do it for other people.
Johnnie: Get all the hard stuff out of the way first: Buying the house, getting the good job before you start having kids. Get everything out of the way first.
Makayla: That’s not always how it works though.
Johnnie: Do your best to do it though.

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