Graphic: back to Simpson IndexRON SIMPSON

by Judy Crook Simpson Vorfeld
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Comments by Ron's students and friends

Nostalgic graphic of a man and a boy and a tuba After high school, I attended Western Washington College of Education, where I had a scholarship to the Music Department. I immediately joined the concert/marching band (click here to hear the Viking March), where I met Ron Simpson, a handsome, talented trumpet player who was a Navy veteran attending school on the GI Bill. Ron, who'd graduated from Port Angeles High in 1948, loved building and shooting muzzle-loading guns and traipsing in the outdoors almost as much as he loved music.

He worked part-time many summers for the National Forest Service. Ron got a kick out of teasing his brother-in-law, Bob Downing, about his summer employment with the "enemy," the National Park Service. Friendly rivalry, of course.

A bit of history on his early years. Born May 11, 1930 in an institution called The Willows in Kansas City, Missouri, he was adopted by William and Olive Kirchner Simpson of Marysville, Kansas. When he was about ten, his parents divorced. Bill Simpson stayed in Marysville, where he operated a drugstore. Ron and his mother soon moved to Idaho where she taught school in tiny communities. Slowly they worked their way west until they discovered the magnificent beauty of Port Angeles, Washington. They settled in. Olive taught junior high until her retirement, and young Ron attended school there, graduating in 1948. He was accepted by the Navy School of Music and after graduation, served on various land and sea assignments throughout the U.S. and Pacific, always in a Navy band.

During Ron's years in the small mining towns in Idaho, he learned to love the outdoors, and it was always a second home to him. Some of his best times were camping and hiking and target shooting one of his muzzle-loading guns. As soon as he was discharged from the Navy, he sought out and got a summer job with the Forest Service.

Ron Simpson photo taken about 1948Graphic of two trumpets, Ron Simpson's principal musical instrumentThrough the years Ron also discovered his tremendous love for music, and he became an incredibly gifted classical and jazz trumpet player. He wanted to become a professional musician. Unfortunately when he was on the road soon after exiting the Navy, his car had a flat tire. While trying in vain to fix it, he slammed the tire iron onto the road. It bounced back, hit him in the mouth, and split his lip. The wound never completely healed. He enrolled in college along with his high school buddy Ken Tinkham, hoping that it would heal. While he was able to play trumpet in the band and symphonic orchestra, it wasn't with the brilliance and facility he'd once had. But still, he wanted to be a performer, not a teacher. Didn't happen.

Ron and I married in August, 1953. He continued attending college (I attended school on and off for another year), and graduated in 1956 with a degree in music education. By that time we had a son, Ron Jr. In the spring of that year, Ron was hired by Chehalis School District to finish out the year as head of their Music Department. It was to be a temporary job, based on his performance. We moved to Chehalis, he made the administration happy, and signed a contract. That September, Shannon was born. Ron never left his job in Chehalis. He not only taught well, but had an uncanny knack for counseling his students when they brought him their problems.

Graphic of a 50's type American gas stationIn addition to music and hiking and target shooting, Ron loved antiques and collectible type of things, and pen and ink sketching. He enjoyed working with his hands. He also loved to drive around the scenic back roads of western Washington. Our little family spent many hours enjoying the lush scenery and stopping for picnics. We also enjoyed browsing through antique stores and barns. One of our favorite picnic places was Lewis and Clark State Park. It was fun for Ron to get outside after a long day in the classroom. Since college, driving had been our primary and most economical form of entertainment. Gasoline was very cheap in the 50s and early 60s! A dollar's worth of gas went a long way.

The Simpson family spent ten years in the Chehalis/Centralia area, moving to Hawaii in 1966 so Ron could work on a graduate degree at the University of Hawaii. While we lived in Hawaii, our marriage, never strong. broke up. Ron returned to his job in Chehalis, and I stayed in Honolulu and went to work.

Ronald Kay SimpsonIn May of 1976, Ron (called "The Colonel" by most of his students) married a fellow teacher, Elizabeth Ostenberg, and from then until his untimely death, he spent some of the most rewarding years of his life. They sailed the deep blue waters of Hood Canal, the San Juan Islands, and other beautiful spots, and they traveled. Finally, Ron retired, and looked forward to more colorful adventures. While signtseeing in New England with Elizabeth in 1982, he suffered from either a stroke or an aneurysm in his brain, and died July 2. His death stunned family, friends, and the community, and his memorial service was like no other, held in a packed school auditorium. Many colleagues and former students performed (through their tears) as a final tribute to this man who gave so much to his family, friends, students, and community.

On July 11, 1982, the community held its service. Those participating were Rev. David Crook and Rev. Robert Walker; Ken Tinkham (trumpet), Rob Sturza (baritone horn), Stan Giske (trumpet), and Scott Amrine, playing Simpson's composition, "Alleluia." Jill McPherson (flute) and Larry Iverson (organ) played "Air" by J. S. Bach and "Canon in D" by Pachelbel. Joe Blaser (clarinet) and Kenneth Kimball (piano) performed Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze." Norm Peterson (trumpet) and Lilis Nogler (organ) performed "Trumpet Concerto, Second Movement" by Hayden. Norm Peterson, Alan Hamilton, Stan Giske, and Kenneth Tinkham joined together to perform Simpson's popular "Sonatina for Four Trumpets," and the program ended with a rendition of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," by Bach, performed by Jill McPherson, Norm Peterson, and Lilis Nogler.


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