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1917 Cesarie'Jo' 2017

Cesarie'Jo' Simmons

July 30, 1917 — March 1, 2017

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, Jo and Kemper lived briefly in Davenport, Iowa, and then in Ithaca, New York. While Kemper served in the Army in the South Pacific, Jo lived with his family in West Virginia. Following the war, the young family settled in the growing D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia, where they raised their three daughters.

Jo and Kemper lived in Alexandria, Virginia for many years. There, Jo volunteered with a number of community organizations, including the League of Women Voters, the North Port Citizens Association, and the city Beautification Committee. The North Port Citizens Association was successful in preserving the integrity of the George Washington Memorial Parkway north of the city. The Beautification Committee was instrumental in protecting and improving the Potomac River waterfront in Alexandria, including the development of a bicycle trail from Washington, D.C. to the Mount Vernon estate.

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 activism. She became a stalwart of the Ravenna-Bryant community and the University Unitarian Church. She helped found the Ravenna Senior Center and chaired the program committee for the Unitarian Church. She and Kemper enjoyed walks around Green Lake and along the Burke-Gilman Trail, where they picked blackberries in the summer. They explored the beauty of the Pacific Northwest with frequent visits to the Olympic Peninsula, Mount Rainier, and the North Cascades. In 1974 they spent a semester at Fairhaven College in Bellingham, Washington, as part of the “Bridge Program” for senior citizens.

Over the next two decades, Jo and Kemper traveled four times to Australia to visit their eldest daughter, Louise, who had settled there. An 18-month stay on their first visit allowed them to experience the wonders of tropical Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. On the way home, they traveled on their own through Europe, visiting Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, and England.

Jo and Kemper moved to Salem, Oregon, in 1989, where they were members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Salem.

In 1993, Jo and Kemper returned to the Washington, D.C., area, living near their daughter Carole in Silver Spring, Maryland. When Carole and her family moved to Iowa in 1996, Jo and Kemper moved to Iowa City, and then to Fairfield in 1999. They enjoyed spending time with family and friends, participating in Peer Group programs, and learning more about Iowa through many drives through the countryside and 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 passionate 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. In her last five years, she used her prized Kindle to read over 70 books, primarily biography and history. With her fierce intellect and brilliant mind, she especially loved books about strong women who succeeded against the odds. She loved recounting stories of her youth and her travels as well as the stories of the many people she met in Fairfield and around the world. Her clear and vast 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.

Celebration of Life

Sunday, March 12, 2017
2:00 PM

McElhinny House
300 North Court Street
Fairfield, Iowa 52556

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