Hair stylist to royalty, jet-setting nanny and first time voter- one woman’s real-life journey sounds like the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
Jean Kimble, a member of the Campbell University’s housekeeping staff for the past two years, became a U.S. citizen this year- and voted for the first time.
“When I was handed my certificate proclaiming my citizenship, I could not wait to vote,” she said.
Jean, who lived in England, was a hairdresser.
“Back then it took five years to complete an apprenticeship for hairdressing,” she said. “We didn’t just study hairstyles, we were taught other subjects like English and physics.”
She wanted to come and work in America, but she was denied a Visa because there were already so many hairdressers. She went home and heard there would be a company coming to Liverpool looking for international nannies. This was her chance.
“We had to fill out questionnaires and we were matched to a family whose questionnaires matched ours,” said Jean.
Jean was matched with the Collins family who lived in New Jersey. Mark and Phyllis Collins hired Jean to take care of their children Francas, Mark and Douglas. Phyllis was the daughter of President Kennedy’s Secretary of Treasury C. Douglas Dillon. That brought Jean in contact with some very prominent figures in American politics.
“One day, while the children were participating in a fox hunt I met Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis,” said Jean. “She offered me Irish soda bread and tea. How could I turn that down?”
Then one day Phyllis Collins’ hairdresser canceled before a big party.
“I saw her distraught and reminded her that I was a hairdresser. So, she let me fix her hair before the event.”
Phyllis was so impressed with the style she let Jean do her hair permanently.
“She asked if I would be willing to fix her guests’ hair when they came for a visit,” said Jean.
Phyllis’s sister Joan was married to Prince Charles of Luxembourg. On one particular visit, Jean was styling Joan’s hair and the prince was sitting in the room watching.
“He said to me, ‘What would your friends in England say if they knew you had a prince in your bedroom,’” she said laughing.
A new chapter
When Jean first arrived in America, she told the Collins she would work with them for 12 months. Phyllis found her a job at a local salon.
Jean met her husband Alden who was a Marine. After they were married, her mom got sick and they moved to England.
“I never became a full US citizen because my parents were ill and if you are a citizen of a country you have fast entry. You can walk right through the gates.”
After her parent’s passed, they moved back to the US. Their daughter Dawn had joined the Air Force and lived in Nevada. Their son Lloyd was a marine and stationed in North Carolina.
The right to vote
Jean and Alden eventually chose to settle in North Carolina. Jean began working at Campbell University. In February, she worked with a Campbell professor on her taxes.
“She asked me why I wasn’t a citizen yet,” said Jean. “I had always been aware of my ill parents, but now I had no reason not to become a citizen.”
That night, she started applying for her citizenship. Her application was complete on Oct. 30, 2008.
“After we were sworn in, they started playing God Bless America,” Jean said. “There were pictures of Ellis Island and I looked around, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”
Jean had never voted in her life. She left England before she was old enough to vote and could not legally vote in this country until now.
“I’ve lived here a lot longer than I did in England,” she said. “Now, I can officially call America my home.”
Photo Copy: Jean Kimble