"I never really did see him as a Black man. I mean, I know he is Black, but I just saw him as a man, and he was just a wonderful person," Shimkus said of her husband.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 10, 2022. It has since been updated.
There have been too many losses in the Hollywood industry over the past few days; one of the latest being none other than Sidney Poitier. The actor—first-ever Black man to win the Best Actor Oscar on April 13, 1964— died on January 6, 2021, confirms PEOPLE.
Poitier—known for his roles in movies like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, and Lilies of the Field—first got married to Juanita Hardy in 1950 and they divorced in 1965. They share four daughters: Beverly, Pamela, Sherri, and Gina.
After his first divorce, he was single for over a decade, before getting married to Joanna Shimkus, a Canadian actress, in 1976. They went on to have two daughters together: Anika and Sydney.
For Poitier, as revealed by him while accepting a lifetime achievement award in 2016, his family was everything to him. "My wife and my children mean the most to me," he told PEOPLE. At the time, Shimkus revealed the secret of their long-lasting marriage by saying, "We've been together 49 years and I'm a good cook. I cook every night. ... I take good care of him."
In an emotional interview with Oprah Winfrey for O, The Oprah Magazine's October 2000 issue, Poitier opened up about his marriage and parenting style, admitting that his kids "would be unlikely to say that I'm easy" as a dad. As for Shimkus: "She would tell you that I'm a perfectionist to a degree and that I ask of others a certain kind of loyalty to and respect for relationships. My wife would say that, on occasion, I'm a little tough on the children."
He continued at the time, "In what I expect and demand of them in terms of values. My children respect my values, and I can see some of those values in them. That pleases me, because my values are not constricting. They are human values. My kids are quite intelligent — all six of them."
In the American Masters PBS documentary Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light, Shimkus took a look back at their wedding in a 1998 interview, where their two girls were the flower girls and actor Harry Belafonte as the groom's best man. When asked about whether being an inter-racial couple came with some problems back in the day, she said it wasn't an issue with them. "I guess we were just destined to be [together]," she said at the time.
"I grew up in Canada and I never really had any kind of prejudice — it's unlike America. I just never had those feelings. And we've never had a problem, actually. It could be that we lead a very quiet life. It could be that it's just the way it is, I don't really know. But I never really did see him as a Black man. I mean, I know he is Black, but I just saw him as a man, and he was just a wonderful person. An amazing human being."
She then spoke about what it was that first attracted her to Poitier. "The thing that attracted me to him the most, I think, is his integrity and his honesty [and] his loyalty to his family. He's just an amazing human being. He's just a good, good, good person," she said, adding, "And he's cute too, yes! And he was especially gorgeous then. He still is too now, but he was very, very attractive then."
Here's praying for strength to get over these tough times to the bereaved family, and hoping that Poitier rests in peace.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Mark Davis