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Hope Simmons

Hope Simmons was born July 18, 1928 at Port Jefferson, Long Island. Her parents were Mildred Bingham of Boston and James Douglas Smythe. Smythe, an executive with the Bell Telephone Company, was an incurable womanizer and left his family when Hope was about six. Mildred later married Tom Bridgeford, a good man whom Hope always considered her 'real' father. Hope died December 18, 2012 from the effects of Alzheimer's Disease. When her husband was informed of the event, he went into the room in the Alzheimer's care facility where she was being cared for, to say goodbye and give her a last kiss on the cheek, and he perceived that the coolness of death was already descending upon her. Tom Bridgeford worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, and alternated his residence between Halifax on the Atlantic and Quebec City on the St. Lawrence River, depending on the season. When Hope was a teenager she was fluent in French, because of the Quebec connection. Her formal education was mostly in Halifax, where for many years she was a boarding student at the Mount St. Vincent Academy, and afterwards at Dalhousie University. She was awarded her Bachelor's Degree in 1948, and her Master's in 1951. Her Master's work on cell biology was financed by a grant from the National Cancer Institute, and her thesis was later published by the Canadian Journal of Zoology (30:323-337, December 1952). In 1952 she took a job at Yale University. She supervised the undergraduate laboratory instruction in zoology. It was her responsibility to make sure that the labs functioned properly, that the graduate students who did the actual teaching knew what they were doing, and that the necessary materials were at hand. She also wrote the lab manuals to coordinate with the professors' work in the classroom. In 1954 she married George Simmons, who was then a graduate student and instructor in mathematics at the University. They had one daughter, Nancy, who is currently Curator and Chairman of the Department of Mammalogy, and formerly Chairman of the Division of Vertebrate Zoology, in the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West in New York City. Nancy is a paleontologist/zoologist and one of the world's leading authorities on the evolution of bats. Her grandfather, George's father, was one of the nation's foremost ornithologists, so the biological strain runs deep in her family. In middle life Hope was a superlative wife, mother and homemaker. She took lessons from a Pueblo Indian silversmith, and herself became an expert silversmith. She made from scratch many very fine rings, brooches, bracelets, and even a concha belt that was much admired by experts, all set with many kinds of precious stones that she ground and polished herself with skills she learned from her Indian friend. As a cancer survivor herself, Hope also did much valuable work with the American Cancer Society, helping many women with breast cancer who were trying to deal with the psychological trauma of facing or recovering from breast surgery. She and her husband traveled extensively during the middle part of their life together, visiting every part of the world they had any interest in, often many times: China, Southeast Asia, The Soviet Union, the countries bordering the eastern Mediterranean (especially Turkey and Israel), and of course most of Western Europe (especially France, Italy and England), and Costa Rica. Their favorite cities were Paris, London and Rome-and New York--each of which they visited and lived in many times. Also, they rented a friend's villa in Tuscany six times, and similarly lived several times in friends' houses that were otherwise standing empty, in Cornwall in the West of England and on the coast of Kent at the White Cliffs of Dover, which these kindly friends invited them to use. How lucky can people be? Hope was cremated, and her ashes will be strewn in the buttercup garden of her home in the Old North End of Colorado Springs, where she spent the last forty-two years of her life. This is entirely appropriate, because when this garden is in bloom in the spring, it is one of the little-known glories of the earth. Her husband never knew a more beautiful or finer woman. Her prime qualities-of character, personality, intelligence, and glowing inner warmth--were all clearly visible in her eyes.

Published in The Gazette on Jan. 2, 2013
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