A family tradition survives 75 years and counting

Donald Kimsey said his mother was told by a friend that something planted by a pregnant woman never dies.

So Medeleine Kimsey and her husband, Bill Kimsey, planted an azalea bush when she was pregnant. The next day Donald Kimsey was born, on Mother’s Day, May 12, 1940.

He is turning 75; the plant still survives.

The family has managed to keep the plant alive for 75 years, moving it from home to home, town to town, and state to state. Each time the family moved, the plant came with them. Today, it thrives in Trumbull.

The journey of the azelea plant began in Teaneck, N.J., with the young family. Kimsey’s parents first planted the azalea bush in the yard of their home in Teaneck. They lived there for five years raising their children, and also watering and caring for the plant. When they moved to Hillsdale, N.J., in 1945, once again they brought their azalea.
Nine years later, in 1954, when Kimsey was 14, his parents moved again, this time to Darien. Again, they brought their special azalea. After Kimsey left his parents’ home and moved to Nowalk, his parents gave him the plant in 1974 because his father retired and his parents moved to Florida.

Like his family, Kimsey took over the care of the bush. He planted it at his Norwalk home where he lived with his wife, Pamela, and his two children, Heather and Darren. They watched their children grow; the azalea bush bloomed, too.

However, in 2007, Kimsey’s wife died; his mother died, too, that same year. He honors the memory of both women.
When asked about his mother, he said she made friends easily and was funny. She was a dedicated volunteer in New Jersey, raising money for hospitals and volunteering at blood drives.

“She was a very gregarious person,” Kimsey said. “She could walk into a room with 30 people and walk out with 30 friends. She was known to have an excellent sense of humor.”

In 2013, Kimsey moved to Trumbull; he took the azalea with him. The next year his daughter, Heather, her husband, Joe, and their two children, Alysa and Aiden, all moved in with Kimsey at his current home in Trumbull. That year Kimsey’s azalea bloomed, right around Mother’s Day,

“Beautifully red as ever,” Kimsey said.

Kimsey’s daughter, Heather, had planted a dogwood tree at her previous home to honor her mother, Pamela. However, Kimsey said, they are planning to plant another dogwood at their Trumbull home because dogwoods are difficult to move once they root.

That’s not the case with the azalea plant. Kimsey was concerned that his parents’ plant might not survive, so he propagated another plant from one of its branches. He grows it in a pot inside his home and plans to eventually give all his grandchildren an azalea plant from the original family plant. Kimsey’s grandchildren include Darren’s children, Jillian and Jacob, and Heather’s children, Aiden and Alysa.

Alysa will be the first to receive the potted azalea because she is the first grandchild, Kimsey said.

Perhaps Alysa might one day replant the family azalea on Mother’s Day or right before she has her first child. It might just bloom.

They say something planted by a pregnant woman never dies.