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Services set for beloved 'Catbacker B Sims

B Sims, with his wife, Teal Wilkins Sims (Photo courtesy of Teal Sims) B Sims, with his wife, Teal Wilkins Sims (Photo courtesy of Teal Sims)

B Sims, a grocer, helper of people and devoted Hendersonville High School fan forever pledged to the Red and White, died Sunday at Elizabeth House after a year of declining health. He was 92.

The funeral will be held at 2 p.m. at First United Methodist Church with visitation afterwards.

Everyone called Sims "B" and most people, even close friends, didn't know what B stood for. They might well have figured it was Bearcat.

Benjamin Franklin Lyles Sims — his seven siblings also had four names — was born in Hendersonville in 1920. His parents, Katherine Anne and Lawrence Pinckney Sims of South Carolina, had a summer house in Hendersonville and had traveled up to the mountains when his mother was expecting, said his niece, Shay English Stafford. "The doctor came up from Spartanburg to stay with them until the baby was born," she said. "He stayed with them for a month and when he was born he was 14 pounds."
She said the nickname most certainly did not come from his mother, who had seven other children.
"He must have picked that up in school because his mother called him Benjamin and she was serious when she called him," Stafford said.
Sims played on Hendersonville High School football teams of the late 1930s that included Bill Powers, Bill Lampley and Bert Miller. Miller and Sims, a guard, were named All-Blue Ridge Conference in 1939.
"I was a scrub on the team when he was playing," Dr. Lampley said. "He was a staunch supporter for the rest of his life."
Sims graduated from high school in 1940, after his second senior year, family members said. "Ever the optimist," Stafford said, B's mother sent him to the Carlisle Military Academy for Young Gentleman in Bamburg, S.C.

South Carolina, which had been formed in 1892 as the Carlisle Fitting School of Wofford College.

Owned Jax Pax store
He joined the Army Air Corps in World War II, serving in India and China, and came home to run, for a short while, a night club on U.S. 64 East called the Top Hat. In 1950 he formed a partnership with Powers, who would later become the city police chief. They started B&B grocery in the 1920 Maxwell Apartments building in the 600 block of Fifth Avenue West, where an A&P store had been located in 1937 and 1938. Sims ran the downtown store, later renamed Jax Pax, until November 1976. An old-fashioned country store in town, Jax Pax prospered before the big chains dominated retail by stocking everything from fresh pork chops to penny candy to bottled Nehis.
In a profile of Sims in the Times-News in 1980, sports editor Buddy Chapman wrote that Sims lived as a "humanitarian, a man who spent a lifetime being nice to his fellow man."
No matter the conditions, Sims made sure his customers got service.
"I can even recall me and J.W. 'Shorty' McCrary pushing groceries by sled to folks during the winter of '60," Sims told Chapman. "We'd load an old pickup truck with food, drive it as far toward Laurel Park as we could, then load it on sleds. Somehow, we got the food delivered."
Sims went out with Powers' twin sister, Bettie, and the two married. She preceded him in death and in 2002 Sims married Cecille "Teal" Few Wilkins, the widow of George Wilkins Sr., a longtime Bruce Drysdale Elementary School principal.
If there was ever a case of red and white marrying red and white, it was the wedding of B and Teal.
"There were no invitations sent out but the church was packed," Doc Lampley said. "That'll give you an idea of how well respected he was."
There is no record of whether the wedding song was "Hail to the Red and White."

The daughter of a 1908 graduate of HHS, Teal Wilkins was the second link in a 104-year family chain of HHS graduates that extended from her mother to her grandson, Sam Wilkins, and includes the school's current principal, Bobby Wilkins.

"She's probably been to more football and basketball games than anybody," Grace Gaillard said of Teal Wilkins Sims when she was inducted into the HHS Hall of Fame last year.
If anyone could have disputed that, it might have been her own husband, who was known as the most devoted Bearcat of all.
"He just chose to be a big supporter," Bobby Wilkins said. "It was before I got here but from what I understand he was always that guy who would help out with anything. He was known as the one to call if they needed anything done. Just a fabulous fella."
Sims was a founder of the 'Catbackers, the HHS athletic booster club.
"He's the one that had the idea that they needed the support," Stafford said. "He thought every sport had to have a banquet."

 

Hall of Fame
In the 1980 Times-News profile, Hugh Randall, the former city schools superintendent, praised Sims' selfless contribution.
"He's never been a horn tooter," Randall said, "just a quiet man who does a number of things for a number of people. He's never expected anything in return."
Sims was a founder of the HHS Alumni Association and was inducted in the association's inaugural Hall of Fame class on Oct. 2, 1999, as a "humanitarian and Catbacker extraordinaire." (Others in that class were Dr. Lampley, Joe Hunt, Tom Orr, Hugh Randall, George Wilkins Sr., Frank Ewbank, Christine Croft and Charles Morrow.)
As they got up in years, the old guard of the boosters club — Doc Lampley, retired police chief Powers and B Sims — perched on the top bench at Dietz Field, cheering for Big Red and discussing whether this year's quarterback measured up to the one they'd watched back in the '70s.
If Sims bled red on Friday night, he bled orange on Saturday afternoon.
"He loved those Clemson Tigers and it was hard to find him when he wasn't in an orange shirt, unfortunately," Stafford said.
A lifelong Mason, Sims was honored at a recent awards program as the oldest living past master of Kedron Lodge No. 387.
After he closed his grocery, Sims started a landscape service. Although it was supposed to be a business, he gave a lot of free mowing to people that needed help. He would always do things for other people, friends and family members said, and was always a gentleman.
"And like everybody else," said Shay Stafford, his niece, "I thought he was the greatest guy that ever lived."

He was preceded in death by his wife of 56 years, Bettie Fay Powers Sims, who died in 2001, their infant son, Lawrence Otis Sims, and a stepdaughter, Wendy Wilkins Bailey.

Sims is survived by his wife, of 11 years, Teal Wilkins Sims; son Gus Sims and his wife Sue Ellen of Asheville; daughter Barbara Sims of Hendersonville; two grandchildren, Hannah Sims of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and McLeod Sims of New York, NY; four stepchildren, George Wilkins Jr. and wife Carol, Virginia “Dinky” Britt and husband Dee, Jimmy Wilkins and wife, Debbie, Bobby Wilkins and wife Gwen; stepson-in-law Bruce Bailey; 12 step-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews who adored their Uncle B.
Sims was a member of the Roy Johnson Sunday school class at First Methodist Church. The family will receive friends at the church after the service. Thos. Shepherd & Son Funeral Directors is in charge.

In lieu of flowers, memorials might be made to Four Seasons Hospice, 571 South Allen Road, Flat Rock, NC 28731, the Children's Home Society of North Carolina, www.chsnc.org,  or the First United Methodist Church of Hendersonville 204 6th Ave West, Hendersonville, NC 28739.

A register book is available online for family and friends at www.thosshepherd.com.