Community celebrates couple’s 70 years of marriage

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

“Unconditional love” is a recurring theme for what’s kept Jesse Sims coming back to his wife Jean for seven decades.

“We have a disagreement occasionally, and anybody that says they don’t is telling me a story,” said the 89-year-old Sims. “But never overnight.”

Jean and Jesse Sims recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in Locust Grove with over 90 friends and family. Special photo

The Forest Park couple celebrated their 70th anniversary on June 20. They marked the occasion by renewing their wedding vows on June 17 at the home of their son and daughter-in-law, Jeff and Marsha Sims of Locust Grove.

When asked if she was still happy with Jesse after all these years, Jean Sims, 88, replied with apparent surprise that the question was even asked.

“Of course I am,” she insisted. “I haven’t had any other thoughts than being happy. I love him unconditionally. I can’t understand why it’s so unusual. We love each other. Why wouldn’t we be happy?”

Jesse and Jean Sims first met while he was serving in the U.S. Army in 1945. Jesse fondly recalled his first interactions with the red-headed Jean.

“I was a messenger in the Signal Corps, and she was a secretary to an army lieutenant at Fort Gillem,” said Jesse Sims. “I carried mail to her desk each day, two or three times, probably. We just looked at each other until the last day I worked there, and we knew we wanted to be acquainted, to know each other.”

When Jesse got home from the military, he went to work for AT&T but made special trips to see Jean every weekend. They got married two years later at the home of Jean’s parents, James and Katie Sue Garland.

The following year, Jesse Sims started working for Georgia Power. Still, he said, the two always made it a priority to spend as much time together as possible.

“We were never separated except when I would go out on storms,” he said.

He added that cooperation, understanding and communication have been essential components to their long marriage.

“If you live with somebody for 70 years, you’re going to have communication,” said Jesse Sims. “You’re going to know what they’re thinking a lot of the time.”

Marsha Sims said more than 90 of their family and friends were in attendance for her in-laws’ ceremony. She emphasized that people “made a special effort” to be there to honor Jesse and Jean’s constant devotion to each other – with some guests flying in from as far away as Miami, Fla., for the occasion.

“We had people on both porches, upstairs and downstairs,” she said. “We had people all over the house. It was amazing. They were just so happy to be here, all of them. It’s just an inspiration that’s treasured by all of us, all their family and friends. The things people wanted to do for them, and just to be here for them ... it was really a tearjerker to know that their family and friends love them so much.”

This year isn’t the first time Jesse and Jean Sims have taken steps to reaffirm their devotion to each other. They also renewed their vows 10 years ago for their 60th anniversary.

Locust Grove Mayor Robert Price was just a young boy when Jesse and Jean Sims got married, and was there to watch them renew their vows this month. Price said his family has remained close with the Sims family through the years, and that he was happy to be part of the celebration.

“It was a joyful, joyful time for me to see them,” said Price. “I never knew anybody that’s been married 70 years. The thing about them, they look so young. They’ve still got a long way to go. It just shows the character of them and the lives that they live. You don’t see it as much as you used to.”

The Sims’ nephew, Andy Garland of Locust Grove, was also among the guests at the anniversary celebration. He said Jean Sims, in particular, has always been known for her generosity in sending birthday cards and anniversary cards whenever the need arose.

That generous spirit, he said, is reflected in the number of people who showed up to celebrate their anniversary.

“After 70 years, they still have more friends than anybody can imagine, I guess just because they’re good-hearted people,” said Garland.

The couple’s grandson, Cliff Sims of Jackson, also shared his memories of family vacations and other special moments with them over the years. He said his grandparents always did everything they could to spend time with him.

“Whenever we’d go somewhere, my grandmother would always let me sit up front, and I’d open the door for her, and my granddad told me I was just kissing up to her,” he said with a laugh.

Cliff Sims, who is now married with two daughters of his own, said he looks at his grandparents as an example of how to raise his children.

“It’s definitely an inspiration,” he said. “I try to do more with my kids the way my grandparents did with me.”

Hazel Gardner of Locust Grove grew up with Jean Sims and has seen her relationship with Jesse grow from its earliest days. Gardner said the Sims’ longevity is a testament to the commitment they have maintained to each other from the beginning.

“They’re a very wonderful couple,” said Gardner. “It’s just amazing that all these years have passed, and they’ve done so well.”

Jesse and Jean Sims have been active members of Ash Street Baptist Church since 1955. They have two sons -- Jeff and Jim -- as well as four grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

Jesse Sims said he is grateful to everyone who helped him and his wife celebrate their latest milestone.

“It meant that I had a heck of a lot more friends and acquaintances than I knew I had,” he said.

Like her husband, Jean Sims was also touched by the outpouring of love she received from those who watched her and Jesse renew their vows.

“It meant a lot,” she said. “It pulls the heartstrings. I can’t tell you the good feeling it was to have so many good friends that love you. We’ve been blessed with a happy life.”