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Destructive hurricane creates life-long friendship

ORANGE — Evacuating from a hurricane is not exactly the time one would expect to meet new friends and find comfort in unfamiliar surroundings.

However, as Donald Rhodes and his wife, Linda Christopher Rhodes, of New Orleans, stopped at the Texas Travel Information Center in Orange to rest before continuing to Houston to friends, he met Jimmy Sims, of Orange.

Little did the two know they would become life-long friends.

Donald Rhodes said his time in Orange, a mere 15 days, was more than enough to develop a friendship with the Sims.

“The whole time we were there, we had a wonderful time,” Rhodes said during a phone interview. “The people of Orange are the kindest, warmest people around.”

Rhodes recalled watching the storm on television as the screen showed scenes back home. In one scene he witnessed the storms destruction of his business.

“When I got back, I looked for it. I found the foundation,” Rhodes said. “I could see the floor. It looked like someone threw a bomb in it.”

While Rhodes has rebuilt his business, he still thinks about Orange, Texas.

“I tell many a people my heart is in Orange, Texas,” Rhodes said. “I want to thank the city of Orange for being there in our time of need.”

Rhodes and Sims call each other several times throughout the year but one call is guaranteed, the anniversary of the storm and of the beginning of their friendship.

While the Rhodes stayed in Orange, they also did volunteer work in the community.

“They were watching the damage from the storm on television,” Jimmy Sims said. “We helped find volunteer work to help keep their minds busy.”

Kaye Sims, Jimmy Sims wife, said the true heroes are the Rhodes and the other evacuees from the storm.

“We thought they may stay a night or two,” Kaye Sims said. “We never expected a life-long friendship. They are the ones who took a chance. They are the heroes.”

Since the storm, Stan Guidry, a neighbor of Rhodes who evacuated with the couple, has passed as well as Joe Sanders, of Orange, who also helped the family while in Orange.

“I think of Jimmy like a brother,” Rhodes said. “I would do anything for Jimmy. He did not know us from Adam. I will never forget and I cannot think Jimmy or the city of Orange enough.”