Jim, 87 and Shirley Bailey, 72, who married and moved to Rossmoor 39 years ago, haven’t had the easiest lives. But that hasn’t taken the smile off their faces, and the passion and love out of their hearts.
Jim Bailey, who was orphaned at age five, served in World War II, where he volunteered to join the infantry. It was in February 1945, when Jim became a double amputee after part of his right foot was blown off, and his left ankle was crushed so badly they had to amputate from the knee down.
Shirley Bailey, whose parents went through a difficult divorce in Oregon when she was very young, was forced to move with her mother into with her grandmother’s extremely small one bedroom house. There, she shared the couch, which was broken in the middle, with her mother every night.
But travails of life don’t show in the Bailey’s faces nor does it deter from their determination to give back to the community. Saturday night, the couple was honored as the Rossmoor/Los Alamitos Citizens of the Year at the 37th Annual American Awards at Cypress College
And last year the Bailey’s were honored by the Los Alamitos Museum. They were presented with Proclamations from Senator Harman, and were recognized by local congressmen and assemblymen.
Following last year’s ceremony, Jim and Shirley Bailey were surprised with the ceremony, saying it was totally unexpected.
“I feel very honored that the community would do something like this for us,” Jim Bailey said. “It was very unexpected and very, very pleasant. Rossmoor is an amazing community, the thing I love is it’s a large community that as so many people within in that are involved and donate their time to make it great.”
Jim Bailey served as President of Los Alamitos Baseball for six years, but started taking care of the fields almost immediately after moving to Rossmoor. He has served on the board, and served as president for the Youth Center, which was the place he first started volunteering, and “just never left.”
But the one thing Jim is most proud of — donating over 14 gallons of blood. He’d still be donating, but was forced to stop at 81, when it took three to four days to recover.
“My life is really amazing,” he said. “I never had a home that I recognized, I was orphaned when I was just a little boy, so to me it is just the ultimate nice that that could happen to me. I have a nice home, a nice life, and I am ready to go on to the next world when it is time, and that is a good feeling.”
Shirley Bailey has been an active member of the Rossmoor Homeowner’s Association since they day they moved in to the community. She was a big supporter in the acquisition of land for Rush and Rossmoor Park. She served as the president, and as been a member of the Rossmoor Women’s Club and has spent her days making sure her community is the “best place it can be.”
“It has been really fun, a true joy being a part of this community,” she said. “We live here, I think Jim shares the feeling, where you live you need to put in an effort towards keeping it as nice as you feel it should be. To just sit back and complain has never been our style.”
After spending several years at her grandmother’s house, she met a friend who was taking a trip to San Francisco for business. He invited her, and she went. She loved it. So she walked into the American Institute of Architect, told them she loved it here and needed a job — they hired her on the spot.
The Baileys aren’t sure what their next move will be, as they have gotten older housework has become more difficult. Though, a few years back they put in artificial turf, which not only saved them on yard work, but also dropped their water bill to $5 a month, something Shirley is very proud of.
“It is getting to the point where we can’t do the work around the house, and most certainly not in the community like we used to,” Jim Bailey said. “That may force us to downsize, or even make a move to Leisure World, but we will never stop contributing to Rossmoor.”
The Bailey’s met while square dancing in Garden Grove, both fresh off a divorce but looking for a companion. He started dancing shortly after leaving Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He said he was a very bashful, shy young man and thought dancing would be a way to “be close to the ladies without having to talk to them.”
When they met, Jim Bailey was teaching square dance, he figured since he learned he might as well “help someone else do the same.”
Shirley Bailey said the first conversation was limited. It went a little something like this: “it was put your right foot in, put your right foot out, you do the hokey pokey.” This sent them both into laughter.
A staple at community events and meetings, the Bailey’s don’t plan on slowing down in anytime soon.
“We are active in the community, not in a leadership, heavy lifting role, but we still stay as involved as we can,” he said. “We would like to continue as long as we can —we like to be involved, and since there is so many new people coming in we really want to pass on our information and help in as many ways as possible.”