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A Passing of a Matriarch
Zuline Creel Simpson of Lenexa, Kansas, passed away peacefully on November 3, 2023, surrounded by family and loved ones. Zuline was preceded in death by her husband of 72 years, H.E. “Ed” Simpson, and her daughter Kellye Anne Simpson.
Zuline was born May 29, 1930, in Light, Arkansas, the eighth of nine siblings raised by Maudie and Samual Creel. Over the next 18 years her love for people and education, and her belief in the principles of hard work and honesty, were formed in that small, unincorporated community.
Zuline married Ed Simpson, also of Light, Arkansas, in 1948 shortly after Ed’s return from the Pacific theater in World War II. Quickly thereafter, Ed entered college determined to build a better life for himself and his family. Zuline, ever the pioneer, followed him shortly after.
In addition to earning honor roll status in college, Zuline also played basketball for the varsity Women’s team while at Southern Baptist in Arkansas. A point of family contention, still argued about to this day, was the one and only time Zuline ever fouled out of a basketball game. Her team was locked in a hard-fought contest against a conference rival. In the closing minutes of the game, she picked up her final foul. The call itself was not disputed, but the eyesight of referee was questioned. That referee, of course, was her husband Ed! (Hard to believe they stayed married!) Zuline continued to pound the hardwoods until the sixth month of her first pregnancy!
After Ed graduated, the growing family moved to Missouri making stops at several school districts. Zuline, a lifelong learning advocate, balanced career, motherhood and continuing education from the 1950s through the 1980s. At a time before equal rights, equal pay or equal opportunity was even a thing, Zuline pursued her education, ultimately completing a Master’s Degree plus 30 additional post graduate hours, while teaching full-time in the primary grades and raising her five children.
The majority of her time in the classroom was spent in the Pattonville School District in St. Louis County, Missouri. There she taught mostly in the Carrolton Elementary school for nearly 30 years. Countless students, faculty, staff and even several principals counted on Zuline’s wit, charm, and incredible spirit to help see them through their most difficult times.
In 1984, Zuline was named the Pattonville School District Teacher of the Year. In the spring of 1984, Zuline retired from teaching after 35 years in the classroom. She received letters of appreciation from coworkers, principals, School Board members, State Senators, the Governor of the State of Missouri and even President Ronald Regan. But perhaps the most meaningful lines came from one of her former principals, “If I ever needed to talk with someone about a problem, I would not hesitate to discuss it with you. You have always had a down home way of relating to people and I think that’s one of the reasons you have been such a great teacher over the years and such a great person.”
Retirement did not slow Zuline’s passion for education. In 1985 she and Ed moved from St. Louis to their farm in Camdenton County, Missouri. Over the next 31 years the two enjoyed family visits and cattle rearing, building the hobby farm into a cattle operation of nearly 1000 acres and a herd of more than 150 head. In addition to overseeing the business activities of the farm, Zuline also joined the Camdenton County Library District Board of Trustees and was an advocate in renovating and/or constructing five of the district’s six current libraries.
In 2016, Zuline and Ed retired for a second time and relocated to an active retirement community in Lenexa, Kansas. For the next seven years, Zuline could be found organizing card competitions or other games with her fellow residents. Often when asked to join a family member for dinner out Zuline’s response was, “Can’t tonight, we’re playing pinochle!”
Zuline’s four surviving children agree that “our mom was our role model in all things. She was an example to all, a friend to all and a supporter of all. She was the definition of a teacher.”
Zuline Creel Simpson is survived by countless friends, neighbors, co-workers, club members and gamers who will never forget her infectious laugh and the twinkle in her eye. She is also survived by her children Sandra (Greg) Walton of Kansas, Terry (Sandie) Simpson of Mississippi, Tony (Julie) Simpson of Kansas and Todd (Michelle) Simpson of Arizona. Her legacy includes a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren who adored spending time with Grandma Zuline!
Zuline’s ashes will be interred with Ed’s, who passed in 2020, near their childhood home of Light, Arkansas. A celebration of life will be held at that time.