Charles Maitland "Chuck" Simpson, 88, was born at home in Nutley, N.J., on Jan., 9, 1924, to Scottish immigrants, Charles Simpson and Jeanie Campbell Maitland. Jeanie died within hours from birth complications. Later, when Charles remarried, his new wife, Marion Brock, had “Campbell” added to Chuck’s names, out of respect for his birth mother. He had two older sisters, Sadie and Mary.
In January 1942, he graduated from Nutley High School, where he was described in his senior yearbook as “handsome, romantic, and peppy. ” He was in fact peppy enough that he was on their cheerleading squad. He was on the swim team and was at one point offered a scholarship to swim for Princeton University. Although he followed other paths, he always loved swimming, even in his most recent years, he always took any opportunity to swim that was offered.
He enlisted in the Navy to serve his country during World War II. He served from July 1942 to December 1945. He was a signalman first class and was the recipient of the Good Conduct Medal. After his discharge, he came to Montana. His friends from the Navy later joked about how he had carried around an algebra book so that he could improve his math grades and become a Montana forester. He loved all of the outdoors and especially the mountains, forests and streams of Montana. After his discharge from the service, he enrolled in the forestry program at the University of Montana, where he was also on the swim team. He earned his bachelor’s degree.
While attending school in Missoula, one weekend he went home with a friend to Boulder, Mont., where a very pretty schoolteacher was assisting with a firemen’s dinner. He teased her (imagine that) and said, “the tip’s under the plate, ” where she subsequently found that he had left a penny. He eventually proposed to this pretty lady, Shirley Elizabeth Wilson, and they planned a fancy wedding for Sept. 11, 1948. Chuck’s father passed away a week earlier, and when Shirley’s dad told her that the only way she could accompany Chuck to New Jersey for the funeral was as his wife, they were wed in their “everyday clothes” by a justice of the peace in Walker, Minn., on Sept. 4, 1948. Later on, they enjoyed a photo shoot in their nice wedding clothes.
Chuck took a job in California, working in the redwood forest in the timber products industry. He became a father to his first child, a son, Charles, or Chuck, Jr. Before long, he took his little family back to his beloved Montana, lived in Missoula, and worked for the forest service. Their second child, a daughter, Peggy, was born in 1954. Shortly thereafter an opportunity to work in a lumberyard which he would one day own presented itself, and the family moved to Big Sandy. A son, Ralph, was born in 1958.
Chuck eventually purchased the business where he worked and became the proud owner of Big Sandy Lumber and Supply. His children remember fondly dusting off paint cans for him, playing in the sawdust, and hiding in the lumber, as well as counting things for inventory during Christmas vacation. He took pride in his business, and many mornings he went to the lumberyard in the wee hours of the morning to work on his accounting “books, ” which were meticulously kept. He enjoyed the opportunity to barter when expedient and was also generous within the community, sometimes donating funds to each of the churches in town. He attended church regularly.
Chuck loved the high school athletics, and he sponsored the basketball free-throw trophy each year to the Pioneer with the highest free-throw average, providing updates to the contest in his weekly Big Sandy Mountaineer ad.
He loved kids in all settings. One time he dressed up with one of his partners in his antics, Don Courtnage, and they went to the junior high/high school Halloween Dance as a mystery couple. Chuck was, of course, the woman with the wig and the hairy legs. He frequently dressed up as a clown for the Shrine parade and other activities. One Halloween, about 15 years later, he and Don sought to enhance their little gig and thought if they retained their same costumes but took Marla Ray with them to dance in costumes at the Vets' Club then for sure on one would recognize them — mission accomplished and the reports say it was hilarious.
Being active in Masonic and Shrine activities and Rotary, Chuck loved to attend organization meetings in out-of-town settings, frequently visiting Rotary when he was with the family on vacation in Minnesota, and he attended a Masonic meeting when Ralph took him on a trip to Scotland in 2001.
He loved Big Sandy and was always happy that he lived there. He loved the small town and the friendliness. He was once the PTA president, and he also served as the mayor of Big Sandy. He was an active participant on the volunteer fire department.
Chuck had a great sense of humor and he was always able to laugh at himself in situations he had either created or found himself in. Once during a big thunderstorm, he heard the fire siren, he rushed out of the house like it was a big emergency. He came home a little while with a sheepish grin after someone told him it was the 10 p. m. curfew siren.
He was dedicated to his family and loved to take them camping, fishing, boating and of course to the ball games, no matter how far away they were. Friends were always included. He extended this practice to include his grandchildren and helped to create many happy memories. He became a private pilot in the 1970s and owned a small plane, which he used to visit friends and family.
He spent the better part of 30 years caring for Shirley who had become ill with multiple sclerosis. He was very dedicated and went to great lengths to assure that she was comfortable, cared for, and still involved in family activities. Shirley preceded him in death in 2002. He kept company with his dog Quincy and his 3-legged cat Bozo for many years.
Chuck has resided in the Whitefish area near his son Ralph for the past three years.
Also preceding him in death in addition to his parents and his wife, Shirley, were his sisters Sadie and Mary.
Surviving are sons, Chuck (Connie) Simpson of Lakeland, Minn., and Ralph Simpson of Whitefish, Mont. ; and daughter, Peggy (Allen) Grigg of Ephrata, Wash. He is also survived by nine grandchildren, Ryan and Kyle Simpson; Collin (Stacey), Charlie, and Damon Chlarson, Annelise (Kurtis) Plaisted, Shellie (Jordan) Hansen, Marlys (Jake) Downs, and Alexandra Simpson. He is also survived by nine great-grandchildren.
A funeral service will take place Saturday, Aug. 18, at 2 p. m., at Christ Lutheran Church in Big Sandy.
You are invited to go to www.austinfh.com to offer condolences, share memories and view Charles’ tribute wall.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Austin Funeral Home.