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Love never wanes

South Boston News
Red and Ida Simmons / March 12, 2018
June 30, 2018 will mark the 65th wedding anniversary of Ida and John Simmons — Red and Ida to their friends, family and caregivers who watch over the couple at Commonwealth Senior Living in South Boston.

Sitting side-by-side in the room they share at the Memory Care wing of the facility, the couple holds hands as if still young lovers. Red, 89, and Ida, four years his junior, were accompanied by their daughter Robbie, because dates, names and places are sometimes difficult for them.

Asked about their upcoming anniversary, Red retorted, “You better stay in love!” and he would know.

Red recalls it only took two dances at a club in South Boston in 1949 for Ida, then 17, and Red, just in his twenties, to know this was going to be a forever relationship.

“I only wanted one woman — when I married Ida, that’s all I ever wanted,” said Red.

Married on June 30, 1953, the couple never moved away from Halifax County, and eventually had two children, John and Robbie. Ida retired from Burlington in 1980 after twenty years as a mender — a job that required her to inspect fabric for flaws and try to fix them before marking the flaw to be cut out.

Red cut a prominent figure in town as a well-known and well-regarded officer with the South Boston Police Department. He started his law enforcement career as a patrolman on July 17, 1957 and retired as chief of police on Dec. 31, 1993.

In 1962, he was promoted to sergeant and then to lieutenant in 1977. He served as acting police chief in 1989 and 1990, before being appointed police chief — the position he held until his retirement.

Current South Boston Police Chief James W. Binner says that Simmons hired him just before he retired.

Law enforcement careers run in the family. Daughter Robbie Simmons, now 56, has a daughter, Casey Martin, who works as a 911 dispatcher in Halifax. Casey’s son Samuel is three-years old.

Son John V. Simmons,Jr. would have been 62 this year had he not lost his life in a motor vehicle accident Jan. 23, 1980. John served with the Virginia State Police for only eight months before his untimely death.

In 2015, the family of John “Red” Simmons made a $1,000 donation in their son’s name, to purchase two body cameras for the South Boston Police Department.

Ida and Red both grew up in Halifax County, she on a tobacco farm in Scottsburg and he near the railroad tracks in Cluster Springs. His dad was a pump house operator for the Norfolk and Western railroad, and the train often stopped at their house for the crew to talk with the elder Simmons.

After high school, Ida worked for Burlington and took a part-time Saturday job at Newberry’s in South Boston. Not surprisingly, Red also worked at Burlington and a Saturday job at Newberry’s.

Red and Ida agree that one of the most difficult times in their lives was during their two-year separation, when Red left home to serve his country in Germany.

Before he left, Red wanted to get engaged, so he presented Ida with a diamond ring and proposed: “Come on and let’s get married!” Ida accepted the ring, but would not commit to marriage — only that she would not marry anyone else. Red says he was okay with that.

Red returned from service in 1952 and Ida accepted Red’s marriage proposal. There was one pre-condition, however. Ida told Red that before she would marry him, “I want another diamond ring for the wedding.” Red did not push back saying, “I think that’s all right.”

Ida and Red became husband and wife on June 30, 1953 at a parsonage in the Alton area. The preacher’s wife acted as the witness because no family attended.

Ida says that back in “those” days, it was considered bad luck for the parents to be at the wedding, and in fact they did not want any family to be there. Ida recalls that her sister had a very big wedding — without their parents.

Two of Ida’s sisters planned to attend the wedding even after Ida said no. So Ida told gave them a wedding date in July. By the time the sisters arrived, Red and Ida were already married.

The Simmons family loved to travel. Robbie remembers going to Disneyworld, Dollywood, and Opryland, but they took other trips before children came along.

When asked to name his favorite trip with Ida, Red did not hesitate: “The honeymoon!” They spent three days in Myrtle Beach, S.C. at the historic Ocean Forest Hotel (demolished in 1974).

Their first night as newlyweds, the Simmons stayed at a local hotel. Ida explains that when she unpacked to dress for dinner, she realized she forgot to bring shoes. She said, “I had a pair of bedroom slippers — and that’s what I wore to dinner.”

Red says that he and Ida stay married mainly because they like each other. Ida admits that they sometimes got mad with each other, but not for long. Red says he never got mad at Ida and Ida rolls her eyes.

Before moving to Commonwealth in 2017 (Red in March of last year, and Ida in June), they both loved to take drives in the afternoon — with no particular destination. When Red could no longer drive, Ida took over.

These days, what the couple most enjoys are visits with Robbie, Casey, and Samuel.

Red and Ida ended the interview the same way it started, with an easy-going loving banter. Red said, “Ida promised to marry me if I gave her money, “To which Ida quips, “He didn’t have much!” Red quickly retorts, “She’s still taking it.” Such is the life of a couple, still in love, getting ready to celebrate 65 years.

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Such a great story on Ida and John Simmons! Their son John had a HUGE impact on my life. We grew up in the same neighborhood and young John was such a role model for all the neighborhood kids! We were all 3 to 4 years younger than he was and he kept us on the straight and narrow as much as possible. He was an incredible athlete and modeled how to handle winning as well as losing. I often tell people that if they want to peek into my childhood all they need to do is watch the 1993 movie "Sandlot." John was the Benny Rodriguez character. All of us have the chance to influence others in a positive manner, few take advantage of those opportunities. This couple, through their character and children, made such an influence on me. And for that, I am eternally grateful!

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