SIMANTON, James Nolan A mighty oak has fallen. James Nolan Simanton, mostly known as “Jim” or “Si” or “Dad”, passed away on February 21, shortly after 11 pm, quietly and peacefully at Guardian Angels, a loving and caring facility in Liberty Lake. Dad struggled with multiple illnesses at once, but mostly, we think by almost 93, he’d decided it was his time. He died a house away from his beloved wife of nearly 70, Marjorie (“Margie”) Helen Brinkman Simanton. It was both cruel and cute to be about a hundred yards from her as the crow flies, even though neither had the ability to recognize the other. Father was born on April 24, 1928 to William Nolan and Louphelia LeNoir Simanton, one of five children the couple had, including older sister Willow (who died in infancy), older sister LeNoir, and younger brother W. Gordon (Gordy). who both preceded him in death, and his surviving younger sister Vesta Gale (Toody). He spent some formative years in Malta, Montana, in a Depression-era existence, Dust Bowl, Depression. It was a rough life and the family moved to find work, including Grand Coulee and Deer Park, before eventually settling on the South Hill of Spokane known as Rockwood. He graduated from Lewis & Clark High School and has been a proud tiger all his life. One night in college, he was invited on a blind date by his friend and colleague Roger Johnson (and wife Pat) of Eastern Washington Eagle with Marjorie Helen Brinkman of Danville, WA. He was instantly excited and probably thought it was even a providence as they had the same date of birth, 4/24 although she was two years younger, born in 1930. They married on June 30, 1951. He would always say that he never understood what she saw in him, and he was lucky that she had married him, even though it really went both ways. Through Margie he met her parents, Claude and Madge Brinkman, whom he adored, their family and their homestead in Danville. There he hunted with her older brother Glenn and found a sense of deep belonging and unconditional acceptance that he had always longed for. Margie and Jim settled in the Spokane Valley and had four children, Lauri, Jim, Leslie and Keith. Through the WSU, you brought all four of us to the salaries of the teachers. They were wonderful, loving parents. We were incredibly lucky. He was playful and if he had a bit of mustache stubble he would make any of us squeal with laughter when we were little chewing on “neck bones”. That’s not to say Dad wasn’t tough. He was. He had put the fear of a living God into you by clenching his jaw. You didn’t play with papa. Ironically, when it came to his three grandchildren Adam, Danny, and Rob, he was no such thing to his grown children. “Pushover” doesn’t cover it enough. Papa was a veterinarian from the Korean War who served as a sergeant in the army from 1952 and traveled to Tokyo and on to Seoul. He was one of three teams that wrote the armistice in Korea back to the United States on July 27, 1953. He also had a heavy duty to dictate letters home from wounded soldiers who, because of their injuries, were unable to write their own families, a memory that scarred and haunted him. Papa was a boxer with gold gloves. He struggled in high school and college, including a scholarship at Eastern that enabled him to go there. He even tried it for the Olympics, though he quickly realized he wasn’t quite at that level. Papa was an educator for most of his career, teaching math and the lost art of mechanical drawing. He coached basketball and soccer at North Pines Junior High and later at Evergreen. He was also the shop teacher, when that meant you could learn a trade from it. Decades after students reached out to him to tell him that while he was harsh as hell, he was teaching them the skills they need for their own jobs and feeding their own families. He later used these skills himself and became a carpenter after retiring from the district offered. If your older house still has closet doors that close tightly and a baseboard and door panel that look seamless, then our dad probably did the job. He was still working in his early 80s. He and his grandson Danny painted their own house two years ago. And that was because Dad was the hardest working man. He was driven to work by an unsolicited ethic or code. He didn’t stop. He was never sick. Even when he was quiet, he kept jingling coins in his pocket. He didn’t know a break. He could work you in the ground on a normal day, get something to eat, and then go back out just as you put your feet up. After he left, he taught his retirement years with Mom, including her lifelong friendships with Mom’s sorority friends and her husbands, where they played golf, danced, drank, and sang and generally had a great old time. We are forever grateful to these friends and to the friends they made as teachers. Papa also had a whistle that could be heard through the cotton trees a mile away, one that cut through tin and sailed over the neighbors’ houses, telling them it was time to come in. To this day, when the four of his children hear something similar from a distance, with indispensable, Pavlovian, involuntary immediacy, our heads will turn. You can hear it now. Father is survived by his wife Marjorie, daughter Lauri and husband Allan, son Jim and wife Kim, daughter Leslie and husband Dave and their son Danny, son Keith and wife Teresa and their sons Adam and Rob. Father is also survived by his sister Toody VanTrease and her husband Dean, as well as many beloved nieces, nephews and their children. A celebration of Papa’s life is planned closer to June.
Posted in Spokesman Review on March 7, 2021.