'It makes me feel good to do good', says 71-year-old who stays busy helping others
When it comes to the simple pleasures, David Semos loves taking a quick nap in front of the television.
And it’s no wonder.
He teaches archery and fencing at several schools, runs archery and fencing clubs for adults, is active in the Bermuda Boys’ Brigade, scuba dives, welds and also teaches Sunday School.
“I like to be doing things,” the 71-year-old said. “And I like helping people. It makes me feel good to do good.”
He has lived most of his life on Middle Road in Paget. His grandfather, Ernest Semos, came to Bermuda from the Azores in 1903. His father, George, was a mechanic and his mother, Ida, stayed at home to raise their four children.
Mr Semos was the second child.
“My father didn’t have a lot of education,” he said. “His answer to everything was ‘read the book’.”
He loved watching movies like Robin Hood, and would fashion bows and arrows to play with in the backyard.
At 19, he bought a real bow and joined an archery club but did not feel entirely welcome. In 1960s Bermuda, race and class lines were still strongly delineated. He was of Portuguese heritage, the other members were older and represented Bermuda’s white elite.
“They weren’t very helpful,” Mr Semos said.
But one man took him under his wing.
"Mr Smith is all that I remember of the name, but he was kind and helpful to me. He taught me how to build arrows, and targets and other things.”
Mr Semos fell in love with archery, but it took a back seat when he went to work full-time at the Bermuda Telephone Company at age 20.
“I literally did everything at the company, at one time or another,” he said. “I started out cleaning and over the years I was a linesman, a splice man, supervisor, assistant manager and manager of engineering. I also went to quality control for a while.”
Back then, there were no bucket trucks to lift him up to a line. To get to them he had to physically climb the pole.
“I still have my climbing hooks for the poles at home,” he said. “I spent most of my time up a pole, or down a manhole.”
He fell many times.
“You learn to push yourself away from the pole so you don’t get splinters inside of your legs, belly and arms,” he said.
Despite that he enjoyed it so much that it never felt like a job.
Mr Semos retired from BTC in 2007, after 42 years with the company.
A few years before he left, a friend suggested he take a fencing course being offered. At first, he was a little reluctant because he was already involved in archery and badminton. But then the badminton club disbanded and he had time on his hands.
It was yet another hobby to add to his long list.
Fencing, he discovered, was the opposite of archery. While fencing involves lots of movement and thinking, archery is more about being still.
“One of the hardest things to learn is to be still,” he said.
His long association with the Bermuda Boys’ Brigade at St Paul’s Church in Paget, started in 1981.
His wife, Sheila, thought their young sons, Jason and Mark, would benefit from attending the character-building club.
“I was a sergeant in the signals session in the army, and working overtime,” he said. “Cecil Downs was running the Bermuda Boys’ Brigade at the time. He asked if I would come down and teach archery. So I rigged up some bows and arrows and started shooting. Because I was in the army I was doing drill, and camping and military crafts. So I taught the boys that. I started going regularly to teach this that and the other, and taking them out on camping trips. I never left.”
He ultimately became captain of the club, a post he held until 2019. Even today he is still heavily involved with the group and in 1997 received the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour for his work.
“I always loved working with young people,” he said.
He has taught archery and fencing in programmes at Warwick Academy, Bermuda High School for Girls, Saltus Grammar School and Somersfield Academy. While some of the schools have fallen away, students at BHS continue to show keen interest although Covid-19 has shut down in-school programmes.
He joked that fencing was the ultimate in pandemic sports.
“You have to wear a mask, and if someone gets too close you hit them with a sword,” he laughed. “Actually, that’s someone else’s joke.”
On January 2, he and his wife Sheila celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
They met at a party when they were 16 years old.
“It was up at Greene’s Guest House,” he said. “I was at home sleeping and some friends came and said we are going to a party, you want to come? Off we went. Then we were standing around like teenage boys do. Sheila had also been dragged to the party, reluctantly.
“I asked her to dance. One thing led to another.”
He said while he is an extrovert, his wife is quieter and likes to organise things behind the scenes.
“There is no secret to a long and happy marriage,” he said. “Pick your battles. Find the right woman. We are both of an era where you don’t just give up. Everyone has their issues, but you work through them. When you sign on for marriage, you sign on for a partnership. You have to be willing to let your spouse have their own free time and do their thing.”
Recently he discovered yet another passion, welding. Although he insists he is “terrible” at it, he has managed to create flower bed frames from old bed frames for his wife, who loves to garden.
Thanks to Covid-19 they have been unable to visit their five grandchildren who live in Maryland and France.
“We get to Skype,” he said.
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Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them