Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

Francis Robert "Bob" Simpson


January 2, 2020

Bob, born Francis Robert Simpson, age 67, of St. John, Wash., passed away on Friday, December 20, 2019, after a surprise diagnosis and swift battle with cancer.

Bob was raised on the family farm at the north eastern edge of Rock Lake, where the rolling hills of the Palouse give way to quiet meadows nestled between crumbling basalt. He loved the landscape, the farm, and his family. We miss him dearly.

Fifteen million years ago, the farm was buried in a sea of lava; thirteen million years ago, the Missoula Floods were carving out Rock Lake; fifty years ago, the Milwaukee Railroad was passing through; and this week, we mourn the loss of a pretty good guy.

Bob was preceded in death by his father, Francis, and survived by his mother, Virginia Williams.

Bob graduated from St. John High School with the class of 1971. He took pride in being among the last class of students to have come from the Pine City Middle School.

He is also survived by his drinking buddy, running partner, and wife of 37 years, Lauralee 'Red' Simpson, and their three children. Bob and Red were married in a small ceremony on September 11, 1982. Shortly thereafter, Bob formally adopted Red's first two children, Shannon and Keith Harmon, bringing them under the Simpson family surname. Their third child, Allen Simpson, was born in the summer of 1983.

Bob will be lovingly remembered by his grandchildren: Ethan and Erik Hughes, Mackenzie Gerlitz-Simpson, and Francis Simpson, who all brought great joy to him.

As a life-long a fixture of the St. John community, most of us will remember Bob for his role with the Maintenance and Grounds crew at the high school. It can't go unmentioned how much good a well-polished gym floor can bring to a community, and for 34 years, Bob has been polishing kids' sneaker marks off the floors of the school's gymnasiums and hallways. He was proud of the town's kids. He was always there to root them on, lift them up, or to clean up when some "stinker" spilled soda on the carpet.

In high school, Bob's competitive spirit was channeled into athletics. He was involved in pretty much every sport. After high school, his love of basketball really bloomed. For years, he was a member of Whitman County Rec League and he would take his family to Colfax to play ball and eat Chinese food. He loved basketball so much that he'd skip his dinner break to pick up a game during open gym at the high school, often playing defense against kids on the high school teams as they learned to run their plays. He loved to support the teams at the school and was always fired up when the state championships were on the table. Later, Bob would shift his focus more toward running, but he never took his eye off the ball.

Bob loved to run and ran daily for 2,696 consecutive days. Early this year, he was forced to take a five day break to recover from shoulder surgery, only to be right back at it. He has run Bloomsday in Spokane, Wash., for 27 years straight. One of his favorite runs was the Edge of Hell in Lewiston's Hell's Gate State Park. He was particularly fond of fun runs that give out 'bling,' and he leaves behind a bulletin board of medals that is overloaded and just about to fall off the wall.

In life, Bob grew to be a strong man, a quiet mentor, and a playful companion to his family - in particular to his grandchildren. He was the calm voice of pragmatic reason in an energetic household, and like his father, not afraid to be a goof if it meant a child would laugh. Now, what's that about a pelican...?

A memorial service was held at the St. John/Endicott High School followed by a reception at the Community Building in St. John, Wash.

To share a memory of Bob or to send a condolence to his family, please visit http://www.riplingerfuneralhome.com.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to help our dear friend Jared Weeks as he battles Leukemia, or to the St. John/Endicott High School's scholarship fund.



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