My dad spent more than 37 years with the company. And although I don’t know how many years Mr. Simmons spent there, it has to be a relatively equal number of years.
I personally know many people Mr. Simmons hired over the years and jump-started their careers. He gave them an opportunity and without him, their lives would be different. The jobs he gave them put food on the table for their families. It made it possible for them to buy homes and cars. The opportunity he gave them helped launch them to where they are today.
Thirty years ago, I told my dad I would like to go to work at the gas company. He said to me, “Well, if that’s what you want, you need to go see Jim Simmons and talk with him.” So I did.
Even though Mr. Simmons was a busy man, he took time to sit and talk with me about my future. I remember him asking me if this was what I really wanted or was I just trying to follow in the footsteps of my father. He told me my dad was a dedicated employee to the company and asked me if I could see myself with that same dedication.
I couldn’t. At least not at that time.
The time that Mr. Simmons took with me on that day certainly changed the course of my professional life. Our meeting was just as instrumental to me professionally as it was to those he hired. I left there with nothing but respect for Mr. Simmons.
And I have used his technique many times when it comes to hiring people. Sometimes the fit is just not there. But had he not taken the time to speak with me, we both would have suffered for it in the long run.
I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Simmons this week. Of course he has long since retired from the gas company. I spoke to him at his residence at the Canton Nursing Center, which happens to be my dad’s current residence.
Mr. Simmons hasn’t been there that long, but the transition has been a tough one. He was getting his eyes checked yesterday and I stuck my head in the room and said, “Hello Mr. Simmons. How are you?” He looked at me and said, “Blind.” Then he laughed.
I then ask him if he remembered me but he didn’t respond.
I guess it really isn’t important whether or not he knows me. But it is important that I still know him and address him respectfully.
I went to school with his son Russell. We still play a lot of golf together. He called me not long ago and told me about his father’s condition and being placed in the nursing center. Russell said his father was angry with the situation and told him he just wanted to go home.
He knew I had already been through the situation so he called me for advice.
There is no advice. It is painful. They say things they wouldn’t normally say. The smartest of minds are effected in a negative way. You can only love them and make sure they are getting the care they deserve.
My mom told me the other day how hard it is to see Mr. Simmons in his current state. She went on to say what a smart man he is.
I am glad she said is instead of was. Because Jim Simmons is a wise man who has guided many in their professional careers. I feel sure he took time with the folks he hired just as he did with me. Because he was looking for the right fit to make his office successful.
There aren’t too many people that like going to the nursing home. They say things like, “I just want to remember them the way they were.” Or, “I’d go but I’m just too busy.”
Mr. Simmons was busy, too. But he made time for me and many others. He helped guide careers including mine. He knew my fit was elsewhere and it was.
If you are one he helped, go see him. It doesn’t matter if he remembers you. What is important is that you remember him.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.