Dr. A. D. Simmons: Country doctor, family man & matchmaker

Susan EspirituGibbs/Corryton

We have read stories of babies being delivered in strange places, like women going into labor while stranded in traffic. How about a husband carrying the doctor across a raging, swollen creek medical bag in hand, so he could deliver the baby in a backwoods, rural home.

Stories like that one were not uncommon for Dr. Alvis David Simmons, the youngest of seven children, who was raised in Puncheon Camp, Grainger County, Tennessee. He attended Washburn High School, Lincoln Memorial University and the University of Tennessee Medical School.

Dr. Simmons in his office

Although he was offered a position in St. Louis, Missouri, he wanted to come home to help his own people and no one thought to keep track of the number of delivered babies, served patients, or house calls, as he fulfilled that desire over his 50 plus years of service in the Grainger, Union, Gibbs and Corryton communities.

In a funny recollection, daughter Sylvia Babelay remembers thinking her father’s name was Doctor until she was about 7 years old, when she overheard a cousin call him “Uncle Dave.” Sylvia ran to her mother and told her she thought her father’s name was Doctor. Sylvia says even her mother always called her father “Doctor,” because she used to work for him.

Sylvia also recalls the doctor’s very deep but kind voice, and how people knew he was willing to listen to their problems which was why he had a reputation for his compassionate bedside manner.

However, when the doctor was at home, he was a family man and concentrated on his family and farm. Sylvia says he instilled in his family the value of hard work with their large garden, orchard and a registered Angus farm, which inspired all four children to raise 4-H calves for show in the spring.

Tree house next to 3-acre lake for family activities on Simmons’ farm

The doctor made sure there was fun for his family in their down time from the farm life, including bikes, go-carts and skates, with horses and burros added in. He had a sturdy tree house built with wooden beds and set aside a 3-acre, spring fed lake for swimming, boating and picnics instead of letting cattle roam there, even though the lake was beside his best field.

As Paul Harvey was famous for saying, “And now, for the rest of the story.”

The doctor not only had a long, successful medical practice, and a thriving cattle business, but he also proved a talent for matchmaking as well.

A fellow farmer, Stephen Babelay, along with his dad, John Paul, had a large greenhouse business in the Ritta community along with a large farm where they put up silage for winter for their cattle and for others who had cattle.

Sylvia recalls, “Dad called me and told me Stephen would be at the farm if I wanted to meet him after teaching at Halls Middle School that afternoon. So, I did. After meeting me, he and my brother David climbed the silo. Stephen said, “Sylvia, that’s a funny name.” David said, “Her name is in the phone book.”

The rest is history. Sylvia Simmons and Stephen Babelay were married nearly 50 years and continued running the century old Babelay greenhouses, until Stephen retired. Their son, Weston and daughter-in-law, Penny, now run 865AXE Throwing on the property.

All of us have a story and I want to tell yours! Send them to susan@knoxtntoday.com


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *