The Way We Were: Jesse and Linda Crimm

The Way We Were: Jesse and Linda Crimm
Jesse, Linda and Hampton Crimm at Hampton’s 2005 graduation from Office Candidate School in the Navy.
Linda and Jesse Crimm at home in Miramar

Linda and Jesse Crimm at home in Miramar

It wasn’t the most romantic of venues, but the impulse that Jesse Crimm acted on almost half a century ago has stood the test of time.

Jesse was driving his girlfriend, Linda Whitnell, home to Winston-Salem, North Carolina from Greensboro, South Carolina, where he lived when he decided the time was right.

He eased the 1966 Pontiac over to the shoulder of Interstate 40 and proposed marriage. She said yes.

Linda was taken off guard, but not really surprised. They were a good fit.

“We were very comfortable, very congenial,” Linda said. “We had a lot of things in common.”

They were both from small towns: Jesse from Greensboro; Linda from Paducah, Kentucky. They were college students in Spartanburg, South Carolina: Jesse at Wofford, a men’s college; Linda at Converse, a women’s college.

They met on a blind date arranged by her roommate.

“The girls at Converse were watched closely, monitored, chaperoned,” Jesse recalled. “To approach the shrine to pick up a potential date one had to sign in and then sit in the corner with other signees and wait under the supervision of the girl at the desk. The girl would be buzzed in her room that her date was waiting, come down and sign out.”

All this to go to a fraternity dance where drinking wasn’t allowed.

When Linda came down to the lobby, she saw three young men. She knew none of them, but picked the one she found most appealing and asked if was Jesse.

“I said yes and whisked her away in my ’63 VW,” Jesse said.

Linda graduated a year before Jesse and got a job as a social worker in Winston-Salem. Jesse had volunteered for the Army and was allowed to delay his enlistment and finish college.

By June 1969 Jesse was in the Army awaiting orders. They were hoping for Hawaii but expecting Vietnam. Linda quit her job and moved home to Kentucky.

Jesse got a weekend pass and a Methodist minister married them at Linda’s home.

In September, he shipped out with the 82nd Airborne for a year as a combat engineer in Vietnam. He later transferred to the 1st Cavalry Division.

“That first year was the hardest,” Linda said. “We decided that we could face anything else after that.

“We wrote each other almost every day and we had little cassette recorders and made recordings every few weeks.

“Jesse was always very positive in his letters but I knew he was in helicopters and was going where the fighting was. You’re constantly vigilant about a car pulling up in front of the house. That’s how you found out they were dead.”

While Jesse was in Vietnam, Linda moved to Fort Myers to serve as companion to her grandmother. “She was a calm, practical woman who had been educated at Converse,” Linda said.

Her grandmother’s father was a captain in the Confederate Army and she grew up in a South Carolina that was recovering from the war. Linda spent the year learning about the deep military roots of the family.

“I thought I was there to help her but my grandmother taught me about her war and helped me get through my war,” Linda said.

Jesse and Hampton, Easter Sunday, 1983

Jesse and Hampton, Easter Sunday, 1983

Jesse came home in September 1970 and three months later got a job with JC Penney, which brought the young couple to Florida, first to Tampa where Jesse trained and then in 1973 to Jacksonville.

He got a plum assignment — the downtown store on Hemming Park.

Coming from small towns, Jesse and Linda were dazzled by downtown Jackson-ville, especially May Cohen with its elaborately decorated windows.

Woolworth’s, which was next door to Penney’s, was a popular spot for lunch. You could smell the aroma of fried chicken in the women’s apparel, Jesse said.

The couple started out living on the Westside. Money was dear. Their phone service was on a party line. And they worked out routes around town to avoid paying tolls on the bridges.

It was a church — Southside United Methodist — that brought them to San Marco.

Shortly after they arrived in Jacksonville, a couple with connections to Jesse’s family in South Carolina invited them to church.

“That first Sunday they were having dinner on the grounds and we met three couples, who were 15 to 20 years older than we were, who became our lifelong friends,” Linda said. “They mentored us. Jackie and Jim Bozard, Mary and Frank Inabnit and Bob and Jean Dart.”

Little did the Crimms know but South-side Methodist and the friendships they made there would become a foundation for their life.

They decided to buy a house in Miramar in 1985. The big live oak in front of the last house on the dead-end street on Silverwood Lane caught their eye.

“It’s a one-sided street. No one lives across the street,” Jesse said. “I can get my newspaper in my pajamas without anyone seeing me.”

The house behind them has a deep back yard. “It’s like living on a park,” Linda said. “We have lots of birds and squirrels, and we get raccoons, armadillos and opossum.”

A quiet neighborhood was just what they needed because their lives were going in busy new directions.

Jesse decided that a career in retail wasn’t for him. “You had to be hard-bitten to succeed,” he said.

After working at JC Penney for seven years, he took a job at Baptist Hospital, where he would spend the rest of his career working in accounts receivable. “It’s a place where you heard ‘please’ and ‘thank you’,” Jesse said. “I loved it.”

Jesse also rejoined the military by way of the National Guard 146th Signal Battalion.

“It was the perfect answer to a paycheck, retirement and just enough military to whet the appetite,” he said.

Linda Crimm with two of her pre-school students in 2008

Linda Crimm with two of her
pre-school students in 2008

Linda started out as a social worker for the state of Florida, but she found it difficult to work with children in crisis.

A friend from church suggested she try teaching.

“I got a job as a teaching assistant at Lackawanna No. 10 on Lenox Avenue,” Linda said. “The teacher told me I should go back to school and so I did. I went to JU and got a master’s of art and teaching. I loved it.”

She taught for four years until their son, Hampton, was born in 1981.

“I was going to be a stay-at-home mother,” Linda said.

But when Hampton was 2, the director of the preschool at Southside Methodist pleaded with Linda to start teaching again. It was only two days a week and Hampton could come, too.

Linda and Hampton both loved it. He already knew some of the children and he made new friends, some of whom he has kept ‘til this day.

When Hampton moved on to kindergarten at San Jose Episcopal Day School and then moved across the street to The Bolles School.

He was active in sports — Lacrosse at Bolles and T-ball, baseball and soccer in city leagues.

Hampton and Jesse were involved in Scouting with a troop at Southside Methodist, all carefully documented by Linda in scrapbooks.

“Scouting changes lives, slowly, cumulatively,” Jesse said. “The effect is irreversible, beginning with that first whittling chip.”

Hampton became an Eagle Scout.

“When Hampton was interviewing for medical school about half the interview was spent talking about Scouting,” Jesse said. “It does pay off.”

Scouting also saved a life — his. In February 1995, Jesse, Hampton and some other Scouts were on a camping trip at Nantahala River in North Carolina. The raft that Jesse was on folded up, throwing him into the icy, fast-moving river.

“The boys had enough sense to paddle ahead and turn the raft sideways so I could grab it as I floated by and then paddle to a place where I could stand up,” Jesse said. “It was a moment of maturity.”

When Hampton graduated from Bolles in 1999, mom and dad wanted him to go to Wofford for college.

Hampton had other ideas. He went to the University of Florida and studied chemistry. Hampton went to graduate school at the University of South Carolina, earning a master’s in biomedicine and then decided to go to medical school.

Jesse Crimm with Hampton (lower right) and the other Boy Scouts who saved his life in 1995

Jesse Crimm with Hampton (lower right) and the other Boy Scouts who saved his life in 1995

He chose the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md., which meant joining the Navy and going to officer candidate school.

His graduation as an officer brought a special family moment. Hampton wore his Navy uniform for the first time; Jesse wore his Army uniform for the last, retiring from the National Guard.

“It was symbolic,” Jesse said. “A transition had occurred.”

The Crimms value symbols. Their Christmas decorations stay up long after the holiday.

“Christmas is such a sweet holiday,” Linda said. “Some years I wait until March to take it down. It gets me through the blah days after the holidays.”

The stockings are special, too. All handmade with intricate beadwork and covered in pins commemorating military service, Scouting achievements, membership in one organization or another.

Linda said they have learned that rather than be ruled by traditions to make traditions their own. It’s one of the things that helped their marriage endure.

“You need to let the other person pursue their interests,” she said. “Let them shine.”

“It’s very simple,” Jesse said. “On days she works I cook dinner and vice versa. And she doesn’t interfere with my golf.”

By Lilla Ross
Resident Community News

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