by Henry Lane Hull

On Monday morning as I listened to the birthdays being rolled off on WKWI, I learned that the day was the 50th birthday of the twins, Johnny and Jimmy Smith. My first thought on hearing the news was a recap of the time over 35 years ago when I first knew the “boys” while they were working at Tri-Star Supermarket and the many times our paths have crossed thereafter.

As teenagers they began their careers in different capacities at the store, which caused me on one occasion to ask Lee Davis why Johnny always worked in the back, usually in the dairy area, whereas Jimmy was up front at a cash register checking the customers out. Lee immediately replied, “That’s the only way I can tell them apart.”

Not to lay a claim to greater perspicacity than Lee, but I always have been able to tell them apart, and I have enjoyed seeing their progress in life since those many years ago back at Tri-Star. I recall the time an elderly lady pulled out in front of another driver leaving our church on a Sunday morning. She was pinned in her car, and the “boys” were the first responders from the rescue squad, carefully getting her out of her vehicle and into the ambulance to be off to the hospital.

The “boys” were still in their teens, but they knew exactly what to do and remained calm throughout the process. In this instance their training, know-how, and take-charge self-confidence were impressive to all of us adults who stood by wondering how we could help. Happily, the lady recovered and lived on for many more years.

Since school and their sojourn at Tri-Star, Jimmy and Johnny have been constant contributors in working to enhance life here in the Northern Neck. They both have been active proponents of the Kilmarnock Volunteer Fire Department, and for a number of years now each summer Johnny has directed the annual carnival which is the department’s chief fundraising arm. The pattern of his career has been followed by his son, Cody, who also worked at Tri-Star during his high school days and simultaneously has been a stalwart in service to the fire department.

Jimmy has continued to serve the public as a deputy sheriff in Lancaster County where part of that career has been spent at the high school as a resource officer. In that capacity he was the ideal person with authority to interact with the students. His demeanor conveys to others that he is a person who will see to it that all is in order. As a deputy he is truly selfless in his work to protect citizens from harm. His knowledge of the law is as extensive as his dedication to helping people in whatever capacity he can.

Acknowledging the extraordinary level of public service exhibited by both Jimmy and Johnny affords the opportunity to express appreciation not only to them, but to all who serve in the police, as first responders in rescue and fire departments, and in the military. Public service is a calling, a true vocation, and we are fortunate in our community to have many other individuals who share in Johnny and Jimmy’s dedication and willingness to serve.

Over the years I, along with numerous others, I have referred to Jimmy and Johnny as “the boys,” but now the shocking news that they have turned 50 leads me to realize that in the future I should refer to them as “the gentlemen.” As a result, today, three days into the celebration of their semi-centennial, I say, Happy Birthday, Johnny and Jimmy! Thank you for your two lifetimes of service to your fellow citizens of the Northern Neck. You genuinely deserve to be called gentlemen.