Archive for Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sims shares 50 years of maternal instinct with De Soto

May 7, 2009

Virginia Sims has shared her material instincts with the community for the 50 years she has been in De Soto.

As Mother’s Day approaches, Virginia dismisses any suggestion she was community mother. There were plenty of others who did as much or more to look after the children of De Soto, she insists.

Still, she admits a special fondness for children and they have always been a part of her life. She has worked as a school secretary, chaperoned a weekly teen dance during the cold weather months with her husband, Kenny Sr., and after a half century remains the Sunday school teacher for 4- and 5-year-old children at the Eudora Baptist Church.

“I still enjoy children,” she said. “I’m just a kid myself. They are wonderful.

“I’d never turn anyone away. You can ask anybody about that.”

Lana McPherson, who attended the Teen Town dances the Sims hosted at the old City Hall above what is now the De Soto Fire Station, said Virginia is special to a lot of community children who grew up with the Sims’ two boys, Kenny Jr. and Tony, now 55 and 53, respectively.

“Virginia was the other mom to many kids in De Soto throughout the years,” Lana McPherson said. “Going back to when I was a young teenager, no one wanted to really host a herd of teens in their home every Saturday night. As long as the weather was warm, we usually congregated in someone’s back yard. But, when winter hit, where could we go? Virginia and Kenneth Sims stepped up to the challenge and became our Teen Town parents on Saturday nights.”

Virginia and her husband, Kenny Sr., moved to De Soto in 1952, a year after they were married. The draw was jobs at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant and the couple first settled in Sunflower Village.

Virginia said her sons were her introduction to a wider community as the couple became established in the community and moved into town.

“I was a Scout mother and a room mother,” she said. “I just wanted to be around where my kids were. Always when there was a football game, there were kids over. Our home was where kids congregated.”

Those gatherings led to the couple being the hosts of a weekly dance for junior and senior high school students, known as Teen Town.

“The kids didn’t have anywhere to go or nothing to do,” Virginia said. “Some of them couldn’t drive to get out of town. So we just decided to give them somewhere to go.

“Every Saturday night, some kids played in the band and some others had a record player. We had a band almost every night we could.”

McPherson said Virginia and Kenny were more than chaperones at Teen Town.

“She and Kenneth joined in the games, cheered us on when we were dancing and brought delicious cookies,” she said. “Virginia was there to listen and, if asked, offer suggestions.”

In her sons’ high school years, Virginia and Kenny opened there home to two brothers left homeless when their parents separated. It was a simple act of generosity to two friends of the couple’s boys with no foster care agency involved.

“They came from a broken home,” Virginia said. “They didn’t have anywhere to go. We had an extra room.”

The two brothers, now in their 50s, stay in touch, Virginia said, and both returned for Kenny Sr.’s 80th birthday.

Teen Town faded away when the Sims’ sons left high school, Virginia said.

“The younger ones weren’t interested in that,” she said. “It makes a difference when you have your own in there to. They influence the other kids and they want to do what they do.”

Soon after her children left home, Virginia started a 27-year career as a school secretary in the De Soto district. She worked her first year at the old Sunflower School but spent most of the time at De Soto Junior High.

“There was never a day I didn’t want to go to work,’ she said. “We had a very wonderful bunch of teachers to work with. I’m prejudice. The junior high had the best teachers.”

Virginia retired in 1995, the year De Soto Junior High became a middle school.

She was also a babysitter for many of the junior high teachers.

Her two grandchildren, Kyle and Josh, are in their 20s, live in Johnson County, are married but not as anxious as she is they have children, Virginia said.

Until that situation changes, teaching Sunday school to 4- and 5-year-olds gives Virginia a weekly contact with the youngsters she loves.

“I can answer their questions, and I can’t answer the junior high kids questions,” she said.

Children aren’t any different than her sons or the De Soto youngsters she and her husband knew 40 years ago, Virginia said.

“Kids are the same,” she said. “People can find fault with anyone. Some have a tough start. They just need a little encouragement.”

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