Cesarie Josephine ‘Jo’ Simmons
Cesarie ‘Jo’ Simmons died peacefully at her home in Fairfield, Iowa, on March 1, 2017. She was 99.
Jo was born in Canton, Ohio, on July 30, 1917, to Eugene and Eleanor Miday. She grew up there with her eight brothers and three sisters, graduating in 1934 from McKinley High School. Aspiring to a career in medical research, she studied at Kent State University and then Ohio State University, where she was one of only two women in the pre-med program. The Great Depression caused her to leave her studies before graduation, and she moved to Washington, D.C., in 1939 to work for the U.S. Census Bureau.
In Washington, Jo met her husband, Kemper Simmons of Parkersburg, West Virginia. They married on May 16, 1941. After World War II began, they lived briefly in Davenport, Iowa, and then in Ithaca, New York. While Kemper served in the Army overseas, Jo lived with his family in West Virginia.
Following the war, the young family settled in the growing Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C., where they raised their three daughters. In Alexandria, Jo volunteered with a number of community organizations, including the League of Women Voters, the North Port Citizens Association, and the city’s Beautification Committee.
Following Kemper’s retirement, the couple moved to Seattle in 1971. There Jo found numerous outlets for her love of the outdoors, as well as her interest in community development. She and Kemper were active members of the University Unitarian Church. They enjoyed Seattle’s many parks and trails, and explored the beauty of the greater Pacific Northwest.
Over the next two decades, Jo and Kemper traveled extensively. They made four trips to Australia to visit their eldest daughter, Louise, who had settled there. They spent time with their grandchildren, and experienced the wonders of tropical Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef, and Uluru. In 1973, they traveled back to the U.S. by way of Europe, visiting Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, and England. They also traveled to the East Coast frequently, to spend time with their daughters and other family members in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia.
In 1993, following four years living in Salem, Oregon, Jo & Kemper returned to the Washington, D.C., area to live near their daughter Carole. When Carole and her family moved to Iowa in 1996, Jo and Kemper moved as well, first to Iowa City, and later to Fairfield. They were among the original residents at the newly-built Southgate complex, and enjoyed the new friends they met there and at the Peer Group. They explored Iowa through many “Sunday drives” as well as excursions with the Heritage Club of First National Bank. In 2005, Jo returned to Australia for a fifth time, getting to meet her two great-grandchildren.
Throughout her life, Jo was a champion for justice and fairness. Her compassion for people motivated her to such undertakings as teaching English to an immigrant family, volunteering with the early Headstart program, and helping to register black voters in 1960s Virginia.
Her hobbies included gardening, reading, and playing word games such as Scrabble and the Daily Jumble. In her last five years, she read over 70 books on her prized Kindle, primarily biography and history. She especially loved books about strong women who succeeded against the odds. She loved recounting stories from her life as well as the stories of the many people she met in Fairfield and around the world. Her vast and clear memory for facts and events never failed to amaze those who knew her.
Jo’s husband Kemper Simmons preceded her in death in 2002. She is survived by her three daughters, Louise Simmons of Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Australia, Carole Simmons (John Smelcer) of Fairfield, and Barbara Simmons of Alexandria, Virginia. She is also survived by a brother, Joseph Miday of Canton, Ohio; a sister, Patricia Frommeyer of Cincinnati, Ohio; two grandsons, Michael Geisner of Melbourne, Australia, and Ryan Smelcer of Fairfield; and three granddaughters, Andra Artemova of Seattle, Washington, Suzanne Krook of Stockholm, Sweden, and Margot Cesarie Hoffar of Brooklyn, New York.; and two great-grandchildren. A third grandson, Andrew Simmons Hoffar, died in 2003.
A celebration of her life will be held on Sunday, March 12, at 2:00 p.m. at the McElhinny House in Fairfield. Interment of cremains will be in Seattle at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory may be made to the Iowa Sierra Club or Doctors Without Borders.
Online condolences to the family may be made at BehnerFH.com.
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