Chuck Simonds Jr
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Chuck Simonds Jr

Family Member
Joined 19 May 2018 | 3 contributions | 1,190 connections
Chuck B. Simonds Jr
Born 1940s.
Ancestors ancestors
Brother of [private sister (unknown - unknown)]
Father of
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Profile last modified | Created 17 Apr 2015
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Biography

The following obituary was composed for Facebook by Chuck's daughter Shari S on 31 August 2023. It is also posted to his FindAGrave memorial.[1] This obituary differs slightly from the version submitted by Shari to the funeral home site[2] and includes an introductory statement as follows:

"Dad's service is next Friday; details (including the live stream link) are attached. As for the obituary, well, "writing is never done, only due". What follows is the draft that I've decided I can live with. (I'm not sure how when it fails to mention coconut cream pie or Nana Mouskouri, but here we are.)"


Obituary

Chuck Simonds, age 77, passed away at his Richland Hills home on the 25th of August after a long and fierce battle against chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

This obituary is a feast of omissions. The teenage joyride to Mexico, the chocolate malt versus his father’s new car, the time when… so many stories must now live only in our memories. For a man so rich in laughter and knowledge and song, words can provide only the faintest sketch of Chuck’s life.

Chuck was born in Fort Worth in 1945 to Charles Burnett and Eleanor Mae (Stockman) Simonds. His father was still mobilized in the Pacific with the Army Air Corps when Chuck came into this world, the first child to the very young couple, and a bit of an accident to hear his mother tell it later. Even so, the arrival was a much-celebrated one. He was fawned over yet somehow too happy natured to be spoiled as he took his place as first grandson on both sides of the family.

Chuck’s lifelong sense of curiosity along with his independent thinking manifested at an early age. When he started school, the teachers quickly learned that they would have to take his shoes to keep him from running away through the sticker patch to follow his own interests.

Nevertheless, Chuck loved to learn. Although he would claim to have never read a book, he consumed non-fiction in any other format like a 19th-century plague of grasshoppers descending on a Kansas farm. He was a fiend for statistics, an industrial vacuum for curious facts, and a studious collector of deep cuts of information across an astounding breadth of interests. Before the internet, the world could rely on encyclopedias and Chuck Simonds.

This knowledge was backed by practical, hands-on skills born of diverse experiences. As a boy, Chuck assisted in his grandfather's painting business – the fourth generation of the Simonds clan to learn every aspect of the craft – but this was just one of his many informal apprenticeships. Chuck loved to work, loved to see his ideas come to life. He would become known for his carpentry, especially as he restored buildings and renovated interiors either to improve his company’s premises or his home, but not everyone realised that he would also undertake the plumbing, lighting, tiling, carpeting, plastering, papering, masonry, and the landscaping, all to his usual high standards. He could repair anything, from an appliance or car of any description to a specialized piece of banking equipment.

Like many Fort Worth boys in the 1950s, he was a creature of the new suburbia with a still-clear view to his family’s more rural roots. He often stayed with his grandparents on the weekends; there he would shoot and fish and learn to appreciate the country cooking that would so greatly influence him later when working magic in his own commercial-grade kitchens. On the one side of the family, he and his cousin Tommy and his younger sister Kathy formed the “Three Musketeers”, finding childhood adventures together on and beyond Avenue G under the eyes of their Mamaw and Dadaw, transplants from Louisiana via the latter’s career as a roadmaster for the Texas & Pacific Railroad. On the Simonds side were Papa and Grandma; stays at their home in Azle meant time with cousins Layne and June and anything that could be done on the lake, especially waterskiing, and anything that could be done in the garden that fed an ever-growing jumble of kin.

Chuck was among the first students to attend the new Richland High School when it opened in 1961. He played on the inaugural football team with his friends and kept his grades above the line, with one exception. As the story goes, he had labored with care to write an assigned poem, a first for him. He was surprisingly pleased with the result, and he looked forward to the teacher’s remarks. The “C” grade that came back didn’t bother him – he didn’t credit himself as a wordsmith – but the comment underneath broke his heart: “If I could find out where you copied this, I would fail you completely.” Blinded by frustration and betrayal, he ripped up the poem in front of the teacher and threw it and her words into the bin. That was it for English, and so he paid the price with summer school, somehow keeping it a secret from his parents. Decades later Chuck claimed not to remember any part of the poem and would only say that it was “about life”. He did remember, though, never to punish himself again for other people's actions.

Much like the father he adored, Chuck entered the Air Force after high school and went on to serve in both Japan and Korea. Suffice it to say that he remained that personable, good boy to his superior officers that his many past employers had depended upon, great with his hands and sharp with his mind, and if he and his friends occasionally invaded Russian air space just for grins, well, “it was a different time”.

Chuck’s vocation was business. After the Air Force, he worked first for General Dynamics then for Burroughs Corporation, where he cultivated an interest in both selling and servicing their new technologies as he quickly climbed the managerial ladder. But before all of this, he met his great love, Sandy, through a blind date set up by their fathers who were not even themselves acquaintances. It was an improbable event that led to an eyebrow-flying wedding only three weeks later, and that in turn led to forty-eight years of loving companionship. As they would both say, “I just knew.”

With a beautiful and clever young wife and a baby daughter in his spitting image, Chuck seized the opportunities offered by Burroughs and moved to Illinois then to New York and finally to Michigan, where in 1976 he started a company that focused on banking equipment sales and maintenance. It would be a comical understatement to say that he and Sandy worked endless hours to grow their company, but they loved it. A makeshift space in the basement of their rented townhome became a dedicated workshop in their newly built family home, and one acquisition of a competitor later, that became a building on the main street with a full crew and office staff. Chuck’s business cards and closing salutations always read “General Manager”, never “Owner” or “President”. He pulled with the team, and if someone underestimated him based on his title, he just smiled and made sure never to overestimate that person in return.

Chuck’s years in Michigan were filled with good friends and quality family time. Whatever interest his growing daughter set her eyes on, Chuck was there to make it happen with all his skills and creativity at the ready. She was the heir to his avid curiosity, and he filled her head with the histories and possibilities of everything that he led her to see. He and his “girls” loved to travel together, whether just for a day’s drive to wherever caught their fancy or to landmarks around the country or the more exotic locales of the Caribbean or Mediterranean. If you ever see an old photo of a “Holidome” located somewhere between Michigan and Texas, there’s a good chance that their darling pup, Fluffy, watched HBO from a bed there.

Chuck could appreciate the best of wherever he was, but as much as he admired snowfall blanketing the postcard view from where he sipped his ubiquitous black coffee, he eventually tired of ploughing the driveway and driving on ice. The decision was made to return to Texas permanently. Sunnier skies would bring them closer to the rest of the family and offer new prospects for the business.

Chuck opened his Texas branch in Houston and, with his new pilot license, was soon flying his technicians around the state before inevitably helping the techs train to be pilots themselves. If Chuck liked you enough to hire you, he wanted to help you make your own dreams come true. If you didn’t have dreams, he would find you some. He believed that uplifting anyone in his vicinity made a better life for himself. Chuck and Sandy finally settled in Victoria, allured by its central position to several major Texas cities. There Chuck restored some of the World War II-era buildings at the regional airport, a former army base, using the mess hall for his own hub of operations. Scores of Victoria’s most interesting citizens found their way to long evenings at the bar that he built behind his offices. Chuck thrived, too, in civic life, serving on the Chamber of Commerce and multiple boards and committees, assisting with fundraisers and ferrying politicians of all stripes on one of his two Cessnas.

In 1996 he took the hammer in hand again to design a space for his new company, an internet service provider. After seeing his daughter help his friends at the local economic development corporation with their first website, Chuck suddenly could imagine all the websites that didn’t exist yet and the telecommunications infrastructure that the good people of south Texas would need to use them. It is a testament to Chuck’s charm and his genuine enthusiasm and sense of vision that he persevered in convincing the many skeptics of the era that there was a place for business online. In typical Chuck fashion, he synthesized his interests, and the banks that relied upon him for ATM repair and security and so many other services were soon also his subsidiary ISPs. In a time when companies were still hesitating over the value of acquiring an email address, Chuck was funding major bandwidth upgrades to the region. When looking back he would try to remember the best of this flash in time, that moment when he felt like he was leading a parade to a new world.

Chuck would not want us to dwell on the hardships that followed. The hurricane. The employees who stole what was rebuilt. The uninsured heart attack. Sandy’s diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's disease. The return to his childhood home in Richland Hills as full-time caregiver to both his mother and his wife.

He had always been a heavy smoker; it is perhaps understandable why he remained so during this time.

But Chuck picked up the hammer again, and every other tool he could find, taking to heart the adage of finding the strength to change what he could. Thus began the transformation of the modest ranch home on Leslie Drive.

Whatever the weather, Chuck Simonds remained a joyful raconteur. He came from a family of writers for generations in every direction, but he himself was a bard, an oral storyteller who could hold court for hours. If he has been painted as a king here, know that he was also his own jester. He didn’t mind being ridiculous if it made the story better. He sought to nourish the many people he loved with his heart as much as with his legendary gumbo.

(“People” of course includes dogs, cats, raccoons, lizards, birds, and even – memorably – wasps.)

After his mother and then his beloved Sandy passed away, and after narrowly surviving an overdue heart operation with multiple complications, Chuck looked forward. He and his sister Lisa continued their lifetime habit of sharing excellent food and feisty banter. He rode a circuit of neighborhood sushi bars and cafes with his friends. Niece Robin kept him amused with tales from Alaska and daughter Shari did the same from Western Australia.

Then the uncertain future surprised Chuck with the wonderful Shelley; she brought not only wit and humour and more family for him to love but also seemingly infinite patience. They deserved more time, and better time, but he profoundly appreciated what they had.

In the final week of his life, Chuck made his calls and said his goodbyes. He had fought well but for too long. He was ready.

And here we are left. The Library of Alexandria has burned once more. Who will wake the houseguests at eight a.m. with a top-volume mix of funk, gospel, disco, and rock and roll? Who will order half of the restaurant’s menu just to make memories with his son-in-law? Who will brag about his daughter’s every breath and spin her foibles into five-star reviews? Who will turn her passing comments and brief interests into grand plans of fortune and glory? Who will cry when we remember the speech from one of his favourite movies, Secondhand Lions:

“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good. That honor, courage and virtue mean everything; that power and money … money and power mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. And I want you to remember this, that love — true love never dies.”

He died with his boots on. He is free to run again. Godspeed, Dad.

Sources

  1. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/258478387/charles-burnett-simonds: accessed 23 September 2023), memorial page for Charles Burnett “Chuck” Simonds (11 Oct 1945–25 Aug 2023), Find a Grave Memorial ID 258478387; Cremated; Maintained by Shari (contributor 46848189).
  2. Charles "Chuck" Burnett Simonds, Jr. Lucas Funeral Homes. Hurst, Texas. https://www.lucasfuneralhomes.com/obituaries/Charles-Chuck-Simonds/#!/Obituary Retrieved 23 September 2023. Link includes video shown at service and part of the streamed service. Obituary and tribute video created by Shari D. Simonds.

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