From The Reading Eagle newspaper- Page 1 - Thursday - February 15, 2001

Eagle/Times: Matthew J. Sroka

Herbert C. Sims, 86, of Wernersville and his wife of 58 years, Florence E., 81, enjoy a free meal Wednesday at the Old Country Buffet, Wyomissing.

A feast for the heart,
Couples married 50 years given free meal

A Wernersville man keeps a 58-year-old promise to love and cherish

- By Alexandra Rodríguez

With plenty of balloons, flowers and chocolates to go around, the mood among patrons is festive Wednesday at the Old Country Buffet, Wyomissing.

It’s an annual Valentine’s Day tradition at the restaurant to give a free meal to couples who can prove they have been married 50 years or more, and about 100 couples are at the tables for lunch.

Some say they never had a fight. Others recall how scared they were when they proposed marriage. Laughter follows these stories.

But one couple does not join in.

The husband and wife sit alone, quietly, at a table in front of one of the buffets.

He feeds her chocolate pudding and pie, while she sits in a wheelchair, her eyes staring blankly.

Occasionally, he asks if she wants more food or drink. The answer is usually no.

She does not know who her companion is.

But they have been married for 58 years.

Florence E. Sims, 81, of Wernersville has had Alzheimer’s disease for seven years.

Her husband, Herbert C., has taken care of her on his own since her diagnosis, proving that devotion to a marriage goes far beyond Valentine’s Day.

“This is a case of together until the end,” Herbert said. “I know she would do the same thing for me.”

The 86-year-old man has been in charge of the cooking and cleaning in their home since his wife became ill.

Every day he feeds Florence and makes her take her medicine.

He also takes care of their dog, Pepsi.

And he would not have it any other way.

Although his two daughters have encouraged him to place Florence in a nursing home, Herbert said the best place to take care of his wife is at home, and he is the best person to help her.

“I don’t see any reason to put her away,” he says. “Some of these places, they give a bath twice a week. With me, she gets a bath every day at 8:30.”

After all, he is not about to give up the woman he has been with for the past 65 years. The couple met in 1935 at a dance in the Temple Fire Company.

They dated for seven years before Herbert was drafted into the Army during World War II. He was in the Army for four years, eight months and six days.

“At least I didn’t count the hours,” he says with a laugh.

At the beginning of his stint, he noticed that married soldiers received $71 a week, while he was only receiving $21.

So he decided to pop the question.

“I said let’s get married,” he recalls. “It really pays to get married.”

Florence saved every penny he sent home during those four years. When he came home, they had enough saved to buy a house.

During his time in the service, Herbert tried to see Florence as much as he could, but he was sent overseas for 2 1/2 years.

One memory sticks in Herbert’s mind: He had just returned from overseas and was scheduled for a brief stop in Reading before being transferred to another base.

He had been traveling for 15 hours in a train from New Jersey. The train stopped at Reading’s Outer Station for 28 minutes.

Florence lived just six blocks away. He called her to come to the station.

“She came over,” Herbert says, with tears welling in his eyes as he recalls the brief encounter so many years ago. “That was the first time I saw her in two and a half years.”

He was discharged a few months later, and the couple has been together ever since. In that time, they have added two daughters, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren to the mix.

Compromise and hard work are the reasons the Sims’ marriage has been such a success.

“It works if you make it work,” Herbert says. “You don’t say no to everything, and you don’t say yes. That’s what you do.”

Besides taking care of Florence and doing the household chores, Herbert says their routine these days consists of daily trips to shopping malls in the area.

“It gets her out, and I think it’s better than staying home and watching the tube,” he says. “I think it’s better for me, too, because I don’t sit here and stare at four walls.”

But Herbert misses the companionship he and his wife had shared. He misses the conversations.

Florence still talks, but Herbert often doesn’t know what she is saying.

“But I have her with me, and I’m happy,” he says.

Herbert is looking forward to celebrating their 60th anniversary in two years.

Although the couple has gone through tough times in the past years, and things will just keep getting harder, Herbert says he can describe his marriage in one word.

“Wonderful,” he says. “You love the girl when you marry her, and you still love her. That’s what makes it wonderful.”

© 2001 Reading Eagle Company, All Rights Reserved
Serving the Berks County community and surrounding areas for over 130 years!
Site hosted by Build your free website today!