Jackie and Ron Birmingham are this year’s Valentine couple. Many of you will recall that Ron was our first selectman for ten months when he filled in for a former first selectman who resigned before his term had expired. During his time as first selectman, Ron’s proudest accomplishment was creating Veteran’s Park and preserving that land. He was also a member of the Bradley International Airport Commission, active in the JCs and was on the boards of Finance and the Ambulance Association.
Ron’s father was born in Great Britain, fought in WWII and been wounded three times. But when the war was over there were no jobs, so when the government offered to relocate citizens to New Zealand, Australia or Canada to find work, the family chose Canada, and eventually moved to Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Jackie also grew up in Niagara Falls, and went to the same high school as Ron, but they did not become a couple until later when Ron was in the army and stationed first in Texas and then in Germany for 18 months. After high school, Jackie planned to go into the convent, but when she was told she would have to be a teacher rather than a nurse, she changed her mind. As things turned out, that was a good decision. She then went to Niagara College, and in 1960 became a nurse with a Bachelor of Science degree.
Ron had been discharged from the army and was working as a salesman for Carborundum, a company that made grinding wheels, but when the Berlin Wall went up in 1961 he was redrafted and sent to Fort Bragg. When he came home on leave in 1962, they were married. Once he was out of the army, he went back to work at Carborundum, and they moved many times for the company. Their two daughters were born when they were living in Dearborn, Mich. Sarah is now an Associate Dean at the Divinity School at Yale and Wendy works in insurance. They also have three grandchildren, and luckily for them Wendy and her family now live in Suffield.
They moved to Suffield in 1971, because Ron’s sister Nell Jenkinson was a clerk of the Circuit Court in Enfield. Jackie worked as a nurse, and went on to become an expert at Discharge Planning. In 1979 she started to write on that subject and has since written or collaborated on 25 books and has even testified before Congress. In 1993 she retired from the hospital, but then she was asked to join a start-up computer company that was developing software for hospitals. When that was sold the new company asked her to work for them and at 80 she is still there. She has also been on the board of the Visiting Nurses Association and on the editorial board of the Case Management Journal.
It was a pleasure to talk to them. They have certainly led a busy and productive life. They are obviously proud of each other’s accomplishments and each chimed in to add to something I was writing about the other.