From Rags to Riches
by Ainsley Slade | Class of 2023 | Dec. 12, 2019
If it weren’t for his younger brother, high school teacher Paul Simmer thinks he’d most likely be in a Korean rice field or in jail.
Life in Korea was tough for Simmer and his family, but Simmer always had one constant, his brother. “We were as poor as you can get, but one thing that we had was each other. That’s what kept me going,” said Simmer.
When Simmer was just six years old, his father passed away, leaving his mother, alone, trying to support three children. When Simmer’s mother wasn’t able to, she took Simmer and his brother to a distant relative’s home. Simmer remembers that day all too well.
“My brother and I ran out to the porch sobbing because we knew something was wrong, asking her to come back- but she just kept on going,” said Simmer. The boys never saw their mother again. After just two weeks, the family was unable to care for the boys and took them to an orphanage. There they spent six of the longest months of their lives.
Meanwhile, a family in Cedar Falls saw a picture of Simmer’s brother and began adoption procedures.
Then, when the adoption agency found out the family wanted only one of the boys, they made a short phone call that changed Simmer’s life forever. The agency told the family that the little boy had an older brother and asked if they would be willing to take both of the boys. They said yes.
Simmer and his brother were adopted in 1984 by a family in Cedar Falls. After numerous plane rides, homes, and faces, the young boys, now eight and six, found themselves in a minivan looking at two American adults with their four American children. “We both had a pretty good idea this was our new family,” said Simmer.
Despite this time of turmoil, Simmer was able to overcome it because he was never alone. Simmer always had his brother- the one person he could always count on.
“One of the most important things for me, even right now, is that my brother is still with me,” said Simmer, “I would do anything for him.”