Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

July 3, 2013

The Sextons and the love they love

The couple became parents, grandparents and foster parents together

Kelly Lafferty
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Jerry Sexton and Rosie Shimer were friends for five years before there was any romance between the two.

They sat side-by-side in “roll room” at Kokomo High School because of their last names.

They double-dated, but their date was never with each other. They always dated other people.

They thought of each other as nice and friendly, but continued to remain in the same friend circle.

That all changed in May of 1956. Jerry had dumped his girlfriend, and Rosie was also single.

Jerry and his brother were at a family reunion and got bored, so they drove around town, and happened to drive down Rosie’s street. She and a friend happened to be getting out of her car in front of her house.

On a whim, Jerry decided to pick Rosie and her friend up, and the relationship developed from there.

Rosie’s mother was thrilled by the new relationship. She liked Jerry a lot more than Rosie’s old boyfriend.

“We tease about my mom picked my husband,” Rosie said.

Jerry’s ex-girlfriend was less than thrilled to hear the news.

She would call up to the house and bother Rosie.

“She would say, ‘I don’t know why you’re going with him. You don’t really like him. You just don’t want me to have him,’” Rosie said.

The two did their best to ignore her comments and continued to go on dates to drive-in theaters, family functions, and even on a date to Indianapolis to see “Oklahoma” when it came out in theaters.

“We just sorta fell in love,” Rosie said.

Toward the end of 1956, their relationship began to get more serious.

“I felt like he would be the one I would like to be with for the rest of my life,” Rosie said.

“I figured she’d be the one I’d settle down with,” Jerry said. “She just grew on me.”

Rosie wasn’t completely sure they’d ever get engaged.

“He kept throwing me off saying ‘Oh isn’t that necklace pretty? Aren’t those earrings pretty?’ I said, ‘I guess so,’” Rosie said.

Jerry nervously proposed in the car on Christmas Eve and several months later, the couple married on April 12, 1957 at Main Street Methodist Church in Kokomo. They were both 20.

The year after Jerry joined the Navy, the couple moved to Maryland. He had been stationed to work with military computers.

“I was one of the lucky ones,” Jerry said. “I had [Rosie] with me the whole time.”

After Maryland, Jerry and Rosie moved to Hawaii, then to Washington D.C., Pensacola Fla., and then Norfolk, Va. before moving back to Kokomo in 1975.

Each of their four children was born in a different state.

They hadn’t been back in Kokomo for very long before the Sextons decided to become foster parents. They missed the noise of young kids in the house.

“Kids are a lot of fun,” Jerry said. “You just gotta relax and learn to enjoy them,” he said.

During the 14 years, Jerry and Rosie fostered 86 children. Each child they fostered lived in their home for two or three years.

“The kids were great,” Rosie said. “They felt safe.”

They stopped being foster parents in 1993 when their own grandchildren were being born.

Without any kids to take care of in their own house, the Sextons were bored.

“I tried staying home for a month,” Rosie said. “I didn’t have anything to do. I would watch TV and sleep.”

They both got part-time jobs at Staples to stay busy. They still work there together a few days each week.

They also volunteer with IOPO, an organization that assists those donating organ and tissue to those in need.

They’ve both had organ transplants in the past.

Jerry had to have a kidney and liver transplant and Rosie has had two cornea transplants.

“I think with all those blood transfusions we helped build Howard Regional,” Jerry joked.

Besides their part-time work schedule and volunteering, the Sextons spend a lot of time with their family and enjoy staying busy.

“You don’t wanna stop and sit down because then you realize you’re old,” Jerry said.

The Sextons have been married for 56 years and credit their successful marriage to patience, love and a lot of give between the two of them.

“You can get upset, but you can usually find a little bit of silver lining there someplace,” Rosie said.