Long-time Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement leader, retired farmer and factory worker, Oliver ‘Wayne’ Simmons, 72, passed away on Thursday, June 13, 2013, at the Guthrie County Hospital. Wayne was born on March 25, 1941, the son of the late Oliver Wolfe Simmons and Helen Etna Ivers.
Wayne graduated from Guthrie Center High School in the spring of 1959. Following graduation, he began farming and raised both cattle and pigs. Wayne married Diane Etta Sease on September 1, 1962. In that union, came the birth of their daughter, Joni Diane Simmons. A few years later, he began working for Oscar Meyer in Perry as a meat processer. He held this position for 21 years, where he had perfect attendence for 17 of those years. Starting in 1991, Wayne took classes at DMACC where he achieved his associates degree in Marketing, graduating with honors.
Wayne married Stephanie Ann Farmer on August 11, 1991. During their time together, they enjoyed studying the newspaper, listening to NPR and country music, going to the movies, and eating at Ryan’s Steakhouse. Wayne was very passionate about politics, religion, and the environment. He was a devout Christian who enjoyed reading scripture with his dear friends. Wayne was a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and served as vice-president of the Iowa CCI Carroll Regional Chapter. Wayne was also a proud member of the Trapper’s Association. He also cherished spending quality time with his cat, Buff.
He leaves his loving memories to be cherished by his wife of 21 years, Stephanie; his sisters Nancy Wetzel (Charles) and Judy Flanery; and his daughter, Joni, all of Guthrie Center; his stepson Patrick Douglas Farmer (Jessica) of Granger, Iowa, and his six grandchildren, Jessica Lynn Crannell (Nate), Abigail Diane Thompson, Carter Lee Farmer, Logan Nicole Farmer, Hayden Mitchell Farmer, and Lillie Joelle Farmer. Friends and family were invited to attend the burial at the Guthrie Center Union Cemetery that followed the service.
Below is a copy of the prepared remarks delivered at Wayne’s eulogy by Farming and Environment Organizer David Goodner:
We came from two very different generations, but Wayne Simmons helped remind me about all that was great about the generation that came before mine.
I remember when I first met Wayne at an Iowa CCI water quality monitoring training back in 2009 out west here somewhere. We had just came in for lunch and had our nets and our little petri dishes and things. And we were standing in line and he struck up conversation with me. Right away, I learned about Wayne’s farm background and why he cared so much about clean air, water, and a rural economy that put people first, before big corporate interests. But I also learned that Wayne was a former factory worker and union member. Wayne understood the importance of organization, of unity, and standing up together to fight for what’s right. He understood the power that people have when we band together.
That day, I invited Wayne to the Showdown in Chicago, one of the largest big bank, Wall Street protests in 20 years, and it was right after the big economic crash.
Over the next several years Wayne and his wife Stephanie became more and more active with Iowa CCI, and I saw them more and more at planning meetings in Carroll and Des Moines, at protests and vigils, and even twice at their house for dinner and coffee. Stephanie always called Wayne her “chauffeur”, and it was said with such fondness and such love. He loved you so much, Stephanie.
I remember I once invited a young friend of mine from Des Moines named Justin Norman to Wayne’s house in Guthrie Center because Justin wanted to know more about what life was like in the country. He wanted to know more about life in smalltown Iowa, and I took him to Wayne Simmons’ home because Wayne was the archetype of that kind of everyday Iowan. The best this land has to offer.
I learned two things about Wayne at those informal dinner meetings in his living room. The first was, Wayne was a kind and gentle man, yes, but he was also a fierce and passionate critic of injustice. If he read something in the paper he didn’t agree with, or saw something on the news he didn’t like, you would hear about it. He could give a blistering critique when he wanted and that was something I really related to. We didn’t debate politics, because we generally agreed about these kinds of things, but we often talked about what was wrong with the world and how we could organize to make it better.
The second thing I learned about Wayne from these home visit was how much his Christian values impacted his worldview. His farm and his work experience drove his labor and environmental activism, but his Christian faith also gave him a unique concern for the poor, the disabled, and the immigrant, the foreigner in our midst. And he lived out those values everyday. Wayne lived a christian life, not just in faith, but also in action.
Matthew 25:40 states “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.” But there is also a related passage earlier in Matthew, Matthew 10:32, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”
Imagine the reception in heaven Wayne must have had last Thursday night after his long journey! But just as important as his reception in heaven, is the reception we hold for him here. Because the truth is, as long as we remember him, honor his life’s work, and follow the call of justice that he followed, than not only is Wayne in heaven alongside the Father and Son, but his spirit is also resurrected here on Earth.