New wheelchair gets Kenny Simpler Sr. back on the beach

Hermit crabs may look like they don’t care, but given the opportunity they’re ready to escape
August 19, 2022

This past weekend might have been the nicest multi-day stretch of the entire summer. A weeks-long oppressive heat wave broke, humidity was low and there was a nice breeze. It’s the type of weekend that brings the masses to the Cape Region.

Taking full advantage, my family headed to the beach Saturday morning. Shortly after setting up shop, I was looking south and noticed an older man and his wife making their way down the beach, which on its own is not unusual. However, in this case, the man was on a motorized wheelchair designed for the beach. Envision one of those large-wheeled push chairs that many of the local beach patrols offer so handicapped people can also enjoy the beach. Now, add a motor encased in stainless steel to keep out the sand.

Despite being totally unprepared for an impromptu interview – no writing utensil, no piece of paper, no shirt (it’s the beach) – I had to go see what this thing was about. It took me longer to catch them than I expected, because the chair was riding over the sand at an impressive pace. I wasn’t sure how far south they were going to go, so I had to run to catch up.

The husband and wife were Kenny and Ann Simpler. They were enjoying the same weather we were.

It doesn’t get much more Rehoboth Beach than Kenny, who grew up in the oceanside town. In the late 1930s, his grandfather George Shockley opened a tea room that would eventually become The Avenue Inn & Spa. He’s developed a number of properties in the area. He founded Seaboard Hospitality, which oversees a number of hotels from Rehoboth to Florida.

Ken had a stroke about 18 months ago. The motorized wheelchair is about two weeks old and it’s given him a lot more mobility, including being able to come out here on the beach, said Ann.

“We’ve been beaching our whole lives,” said Ann. In a later phone call, she said Kenny can use a cane to walk on hard surfaces, but the sand is just too unstable.

Kenny would take a swim every day from June to September, said Ann. The stroke has made hunting, fishing and boating difficult, but he’s getting stronger, she said.

“Those are the types of things we miss, but we still have each other, and that’s what’s most important,” said Ann. “It’s amazing how things can change in the blink of an eye.”

To his credit, while still on the beach, Kenny immediately recognized my last name when I introduced myself. He asked, “Did your dad live in Seabreeze the same time we did?” referencing the small community off the Forgotten Mile. He had, but my dad would have been in high school at the time, while my grandfather was more Ken’s contemporary.

We talked for a few minutes about the wheelchair. I made my way back to my family. The Simplers headed a little farther south and then turned back north. This time it was Ann’s turn to run after Ken. Their dog had stopped to go to the bathroom and while Ann was bagging the results, Ken kept moving. It was an awesome thing to see, and you could tell they were all about it. Ann was laughing. Ken had a look of self-determination that I’m sure has served him well over the years and will continue to do so.

Better have a good cage for those hermit crabs

A word of advice for all those parents who were convinced by their kids this summer that it would be a good idea to buy a hermit crab as a memory of their trip to the Cape Region – give those little crustaceans a good cage.

A few weeks ago, at a time in the morning when I’m typically the only one up, I heard some scratching in the kitchen. Cellphone in hand, flashlight on, I went to investigate, hoping I wasn’t about to have to deal with a mouse. As I neared the scratching, it stopped. I investigated the area I thought the noise was coming from and didn’t see anything.

About 20 minutes later, I heard more scratching. Still the only one up and still dark, again I set out to find the noise maker with my cellphone flashlight on. This time the scratching persisted. What did I find? My daughter’s recently purchased hermit crab, stuck between our dog’s food bowl and the wall. It had managed to find the one weakness in its cage and exploited it.

It reminded me of a time when my brother and I had hermit crabs as kids. His crab got loose and disappeared. The crab had the good fortune of falling on carpet so its escape attempt wasn’t foiled by the sound of claws scratching along a hard floor. However, it had the not-so-good fortune of finding its way into one of my brother’s shoes, which is where it showed up dead a couple of weeks later. Who knows how long it was there, and how did it even get in there?

The point being, those little shelled buggers might not look like they mind being in those cages, but given the opportunity, they’re going to try and escape.

Joke of the Week:

Summer’s winding down, so let's get another beach-themed joke in while we can. This one is from John. As always, send joke submissions to

Q: Why couldn't Little Bunny hop over the dune?

A: Because she had a weak end!


  • Chris Flood has lived in or visited family in Delaware his whole life. He grew up in Maine, but a block of scrapple was always in the freezer of his parents’ house during his childhood. Contact him at

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