Meet Kent Resident and Avid Volunteer Nancy Simpson
by Michelle Gehlman-Teeter
Nancy Simpson, Vice-President of the Greater Kent Historical Society, and I sat in the cozy office of the Kent Historical Museum, the walls and ceiling of which are a warm, polished wood that gives the feel of sturdy, timeless work being done. It was once the home office of a mill owner and mayor of Kent, among many other people, so wisdom has been soaked into the hundred-year-old walls. Nancy chatted with me about her role in the Greater Kent Historical Society and beyond.
Nancy was born Nancy Francis on Scenic Hill in Kent , specifically on Van de Vanter Street. In the fourth grade, Nancy lived for awhile with her Grandparents whose home was behind the Bereiter house, the current Kent Historical Museum. Mostly, however, Scenic Hill was where she grew up.
Nancy wanted to go to college, but the times being what they were, she went to key punch school instead. This landed her a job at Bell Telephone where she was promoted to supervisor in only one and a half years. In 1965, Nancy married Chuck Simpson. Once married she didn’t want to commute to Seattle anymore, so she got a closer job as a secretary for First Baptist Church where she worked for ten years.
Chuck and Nancy adopted two children and this is when Nancy began her prolific career as a volunteer. Over the years she has volunteered: in Panther Lake’s health room; Cub Scouts; Camp Fire Girls; as PTA president; Meals on Wheels; helping out at her grandchildren’s school; Kiwanis and, of course, the Greater Kent Historical Society. She also worked for Judson Park Senior Living, earning a commercial driving license so she could driver the residents on trips all over the area, and eventually becoming the Resident Director.
After her daughter graduated college, Nancy retired. But she found retirement boring, so along with her volunteer efforts, she worked eight years in a plant nursery in Fife. Over the years Nancy also had two businesses: Gotcha Covered an apron business and a basketry weaving business. The latter had items exhibited at the Seattle Design Center in Seattle.
“There is always fun stuff to do,” Nancy said.
Nancy’s sister Sally was volunteering at the Kent History Museum, working in the garden and asked if she wanted to help. This was how Nancy began working with the Greater Kent Historical Society. Sally and Nancy took responsibility for the landscaping at the museum and through trial and error created the lovely grounds there now.
The historical society president at the time, Charlene Shaw, asked Nancy to become president after she stepped down. Nancy was the president for three and a half years until she got worn out and had to step down too. While president one of the accomplishments in the museum she is proud of was remodeling the kitchen area to make it more usable for events. They also had an exhibit on the World’s Fair which got honorable mention at the AKCHO award ceremony held at MOHAI.
Nancy reflected, “I love bringing in US history and combining it with Kent history”.
Nancy has come back to the museum as vice president and says she is still figuring out what her role at the museum will look like now. She wants to create relationships and believes a collaborative effort is the best way to do things.
“I enjoy being at the museum because when people come through the door, I always find connections,” said Nancy.
There are many things Nancy loves about living in Kent. Being where she grew up, it’s familiar which is comforting, but she especially loves the parks. She has spent a lot of time in the local parks as her husband, Chuck, used to play minor league baseball in them.
“They are a real community advantage,” Nancy said, “for kids and adults too.”
The main thing about Kent Nancy would like people to know is the diversification and opportunities that are here for people. There are not only jobs but also recreation and the arts, giving the example of the Kent Spotlight Series performed in the high schools’ performing arts centers.
Nancy’s hopes for Kent’s future are a couple more restaurants, maybe even an ice cream parlor, to pull in more people, making this a place to spend their time and helping the local economy.
Nancy says she enjoys working with people and it shows in her countless hours of service to our community.
“It’s important to contribute back to a community if you live in it,” she said.