A true love match for Kenneth and Gloria
Seventy years after their wedding day and Kenneth Simmons still describes his wife Gloria as his true love match.
“I have the feeling it was sort of meant to be,” the 95-year-old said. “Everything sort of fell in place for us to be married but the main thing that was effective – we actually loved each other and we just haven’t stopped.”
The Pembroke couple celebrated the July 12 milestone with their children, five grandchildren, six great grandchildren, “in-laws and out-laws”.
That they married at all was testament to Mr Simmons’ perseverance. Their parents had been friends for years but he hadn’t taken much notice of Gloria Dowling, as she was then called. And then one day he travelled from Somerset, at the invitation of her cousin, to spend a weekend with them on North Shore.
“She was there learning dressmaking with her aunt. I saw here there and, for some reason, she struck a string in my heart and that was it. I decided there and then that this was going to be my girl.”
He didn’t take into consideration that Mrs Simmons might have plans of her own.
“She always said that she would marry a tall man,” Mr Simmons laughed. “She had a double chin and she figured that if she had a tall man she could look up and get rid of her double chin. I didn’t fall in that category at all because I’m short, although I’m taller than her.
“Anyway, I pursued her every opportunity I could.”
Aware that one of his Sandys neighbours was a love rival, he was thrilled when the opportunity came for him to move to Hamilton, where he would be closer to the woman of his dreams.
A bonus was that it gave him the chance to learn how to drive a heavy truck. The evening he offered to take the future Mrs Simmons to visit to his mother “was the beginning of our being together”.
“So it was my driving skill of a heavy truck that convinced her that short men were OK,” Mr Simmons said.
The pair “courted” for about three years before they married in 1951.
“Weddings during my day, the early days, were on Thursday afternoons. We were married on a Thursday afternoon at St John’s Church in Pembroke and we had a reception at her brother’s house on Ewing Street. We had family and friends. It was a pretty decent sized wedding.
“We went for a ride afterwards in a convertible. She didn’t like horses so we didn’t bother with a horse and carriage.”
Mr Simmons doesn’t remember much of the celebration but Mrs Simmons, who is also 95, later explained how two guests in particular were thrilled to see them married.
“Olive and Kenny Trott ran a restaurant on North Shore. She was quite a friend of the world heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali. They told [my wife] way back when I was spending time with her at her aunt’s house that I was the man she was going to marry. She denied that because she said her mind was always on a tall man. But they laughed and told her, ‘Oh no, he’s the one.’
“Sure enough they were at the wedding. I didn’t see them – I really don’t recall too many things at all at the wedding. But she saw them at the wedding and they were grinning all over.”
The newlyweds moved into an apartment Mr Simmons built for them at his parents’ home in Sandys where they had their first daughter, Sandra. Three years later they moved to Cox’s Hill and then Parsons Road before moving back to Cox’s Hill in 1961. Along the way they had three more children: the late Kenneth Jr, Constance and Wendell.
“Today we still can go back over the memories of our courtship, memories of our early married days and the struggles we went through,” Mr Simmons said.
“I’m very thankful. I have a memory that goes back to when I was three years old. Unfortunately her memory’s not too good and her eyesight’s not too good. But I am her eyesight and memory for her, so we make it.”
Together they became Christians in the early 1970s and are today faithful members of Brighton Hill Church of Christ in Devonshire.
“We have through that gained a lot of brothers and sisters within the brotherhood,” Mr Simmons said. “I think we are the oldest couple within the church. And we are treated like a mother and father or brother and sister and the relationship is very, very good.”
An entrepreneur at heart, he owned a shop on Court Street for “a number of years” selling and repairing radios and any necessary parts.
“I eventually worked on my own [business] in my basement and I also got to install a complete two-way radio system for a local taxi company. Through that I was able to go to the people that built the radios out in Minnesota; I spent some time out there learning how to repair them, that sort of thing.”
Today Mr Simmons is happy that he and his wife have been able to enjoy “an eventful life”.
“We’ve travelled. Our first trip together was out to Hawaii and that was through my dealership of Radio Shack. We won a trip for two by the number of sales we did for a particular year.
“When I look back, every instance was an event for us. Everything just grew and worked [and we did it] together. I think we were very fortunate in regards to our relationship – that our mothers knew each other, our fathers knew each other. I do believe that God has blessed us with good health and allowed us to have a good family and be able to travel, and travel with our children sometimes.”