WILLIAM CRAIG SIMMER
William Craig (Bill) Simmer of John Knox Village, Lee’s Summit, died peacefully Feb. 24, 2013, surrounded by his family, who gathered from five states to be with him in his final hours. He was born to William Leonard and Agnes Rhoda Simmer on June 16, 1921 in Ottumwa, Iowa. He was a 1939 graduate of Ottumwa High School. He responded to a call to the Christian ministry in 1941 and enrolled in Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, Iowa, graduating in 1944. While at Cornell, he served his first church in Elwood, Iowa.
He married Blanche Gabrielson in 1945, and she remained his inseparable companion for 68 years, until Bill’s death parted them. From this union were born one daughter and four sons. Bill often organized the family in marathon card games and board games, and he usually won. Bill enjoyed travel and drove the family on vacations all over the continental United States, often stopping to tour Methodist churches, over the protests of his children. Bill’s children have followed their career paths to faraway parts of the U.S., but although they are physically distant, they always remained close to Bill’s heart. Bill looked forward to the lively family reunions every other year.
Rev. Simmer was ordained an Elder in the Methodist Church in Concord, N.H. in 1948. He graduated from Boston University School of Theology in 1950 with a Master of Sacred Theology. He served churches for over 56 years, including Lisbon/Landaff, NH. He was an associate pastor at Wesley Methodist Church, Springfield, Mass., and was a pastor of the UMC (United Methodist Church) in Hudson, Mass. He and Blanche were homesick for the Midwest, so Bill transferred to the Nebraska Methodist Conference in 1952. In Neb., Bill served at Hemingford/Marsland, Wayne UMC, First Church North Platte/Tryon and First Church Fremont. In the Nebraska Conference he served as Chairman of the Commissions on Higher Education, on the Conference Board of Pensions and as a trustee of Nebraska Wesleyan University. Bill was an optimistic and caring presence in the congregations that he served, and was a courageous, spokesperson for the causes he believed in.
In 1973 he left the full-time ministry in the Nebraska Conference and moved to Missouri. He worked as a district agent and sales manager for The Prudential. He qualified for the company’s national conference seven times and retired with distinction in 1987. While working full-time at Prudential, Bill continued his ministry. He served three years as part-time pastor of St. Marks UMC in Independence, nine years as pastor of Melrose UMC in northeast Kansas City, and fourteen years as pastor of Wesley UMC, Kingsville, and Woods Chapel UMC, Odessa. Bill retired from the ministry in 2002, at age 81. He and Blanche remained active residents of Blue Springs UMC, and a member of the Rotary. He was an enthusiastic bridge player and teacher, and for years was chairman of the popular Grain Valley Bridge Club.
Bill had many varied interests over the years, including photography, oil painting, bridge, politics, and even guitar and hypnosis. For several years he was a patient, enthusiastic golfer. For about a decade, he was a season ticket holder for the Kansas City Chiefs, and was a fan of the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals. He and Blanch were avid world travelers, with trips to China, Russia, England, Portugal, and the Holy Land. Late in life, his labor of love was setting the Gospels to poetic form, which he self-published as The Gospels in Rhyme.
His sister, Iola Buffington, and two brothers, Robert and Gordon, preceded Bill in death.
Survivors include a brother, Leonard Keith Simmer, Tyler, Texas, half brothers; Len and Fred Simmer, Chillicothe, daughter, Judith Simmer-Brown and her husband, Richard, Boulder, Co. and four sons; Stephen Craig and his wife, Rebecca, Northampton, M.A., William Scott and his wife, Peggy, Silver Springs, MD, Mark G. Simmer and his wife Page, Portland, Or. and David Simmer and his wife, Isabel, Sedona, Ariz.; thirteen grandchildren, Ryan, Kate, Danielle, Michael, Owen, Alicia, Reid, Anna, Lia, Zahra, Garret, Alex and Joshua, and one great grandchild, Claudia. In addition, there are countless other relatives and friends.
A funeral honoring Bill’s life and service will be held Feb. 27, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at Langsford Funeral Home in Lee’s Summit. The family will receive friends at 9:00-10:30 a.m. Thursday, also at the Funeral Home, followed by the commitment.
Memorials in lieu of flowers may be sent to ReStart, Hillcrest Ministry, the Kansas City homeless shelter. Checks should be made out to ReStart Donation, c/o Lee’s Summit United Methodist Church, 114 SE Douglas St, Lee’s Summit, MO., 64064.
(Arrangements: Langsford Funeral Home, 115 SW Third St, Lee’s Summit, MO, 64063, 816-524-3700.)