Donald Ransom Simmons, 92, passed away Aug. 23, 2022, after a long life and a swift parting.
He was born Feb. 10, 1930, in Brandywine to parents Salina Simmons (nee Adams, later Simpson) and Cletus Simmons.
A graduate of Franklin High School (class of 1948), he was a sporty kid who was happiest on the field and court, enjoyed piano lessons given by a neighbor and spent long hours roaming the hills and valleys of Pendleton County. In fact, his final stories and memories were of farm adventures with his playmate and eventual step-sister, Mary Helen Blackwell (nee Simpson).
After graduation, Mr. Simmons enlisted in the Air Force and found himself stationed in Freising, Germany, in 1949. There, he met his future wife, Hilde Faulkner (nee Simmons), and the two were wed in 1951. He sent his wife back to Brandywine for the birth of their first son, Donald C. E. Simmons, while he continued in the service. And so began a military career that would take him and his family to Washington State (where second son, Chris M. Simmons, was born), Thule, Greenland, Shemya, Alaska, Okinawa, Japan, Florida, Utah, Virginia, and several more assignments in Germany, to name just a few. He retired from the Air Force in 1979 at the rank of Chief Master Seargent and settled in the Park View neighborhood of Harrisonburg, Virginia. There, he began his second career at Merck in Elkton, Virginia, from where he later also retired.
Like many men of his age, when faced with the copious free time of retirement and a homemaking wife unused to his constant presence, he more fully pursued the passions he’d only had fleeting time to enjoy over the years: racquetball at Westover to keep spry, zippy cars to drive on mountain roads with the top down and an elicit cigar between his teeth, washing those same zippy cars on a weekly regimen, grilling the perfect steak while Sunday NASCAR buzzed in the background (he only actually watched the last five minutes when “it got interesting”), mowing a lawn to beautiful satisfaction and semi-annual sojourns to his adopted homeland in Germany (where tall glasses of Weihenstephan beer were had at the source with dear family and friends).
He was always very much at the center of a gathering. Sometimes quiet, usually smiling, and always attentive. He loved his family with the clear-eyed conviction of a country gentleman patriarch, and was the best of sons to Salina – always “Mother.” He was also the best Opa in the world. He was privately sentimental and someone who beamed with pride at the accomplishments of those he cared for. He was not perfect and would not have claimed to be so, but he worked hard at the task of loving, protecting, and guiding.
Surviving are eldest son and daughter-in-law, Don and Elizabeth Simmons; granddaughter and husband, Jennifer Simmons and Jason Wilson; great-granddaughters and step-great-granddaughter, Elsie and Islay Kaleba and Hope Wilson; nephew and wife, Paul and Jan Showalter; niece and husband, Barbara and Chris Catherine; great-nephew, Alex Catherine; sister-in-law, Rose Lehrmann; cousins, Jean Ann Homan and Joan Eye; and stepnieces, Mary Byrd Ellison and Catherine Wilson.
He was preceded the death by his mother and father, Salina and Clete; step-sister, Mary Helen; wife, Hilde; son, Chris; sister-in-law and husband, Paula Showalter (nee Faulkner) and Bob Showalter; and myriad aunts, uncles and cousins in Pendleton County and beyond.
Lastly, any story about a good man should naturally include a good dog. Mr. Simmons had many. He took a lifetime of long walks with a long line of good dogs. If the idea of a boy – even at 92 years old – and his dog makes a person smile, please consider donating to the Rockingham Harrisonburg SPCA (https://rhspca.org/) in his name.
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