THOMASTON - Dr. Mary Jean Simmons, 83, joined the Church Triumphant on Friday, December 20, 2013 after a long illness.
Funeral services for Dr. Simmons will be held Monday, December 23, 2013 at 2 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, Thomaston, Ga., with Rev. Christopher Peterson and Dr. Mary Jane Gardner officiating. Interment will be in the family plot in Richmond, Va.
Dr. Simmons was born in Montgomery, Ala., July 7, 1930, the daughter of the Reverend Mr. and Mrs. James H. Ivey, Jr., Pastor of the Wetumpkia Baptist Church, Wetumpka, Ala.
She was educated in the public school systems of Alabama, Missouri and Virginia. After graduating as Valedictorian of her high school, she studied piano at the Eastman Conservatory of Music, Rochester, N.Y., and took classes at Rochester University. She graduated from the Westhampton, the Women's College, of the University of Richmond. Mary Jean held a Master of Music Education and Doctor of Education from the University of Georgia.
Upon graduating from college, she toured Europe on her way to Germany to study piano with one of the great concert pianists and teachers. Her plans were altered when her father, pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Richmond, Va., died suddenly. She accepted a position at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond where she met and married the Reverend Albert E. Simmons. She taught piano in her home wherever she and her husband lived, and volunteered to teach chorus in the elementary school of Leesburg, Va. Dr. Simmons directed the choirs and at times played the organ in her husband's churches as well. She taught French and Choral Music at Therrell High School in Atlanta, Ga.
Upon moving to Gainesville, Ga., she taught chorus for one year at Lakeside Academy before joining the faculty of Brenau College as Instructor in piano. She also became Director of the chorus.
While on the faculty at Brenau, she received a scholarship to work on her Doctorate at the University of Georgia. Upon graduating, she returned to Brenau and became Chairperson of the Fine Arts Department and Associate Professor of Music. After moving with her husband to Thomaston, Dr. Simmons became Chairperson of the Fine Arts Department and Professor at Gordon College in Barnesville. She also served Gordon as Director of Community Services, Dean of off-campus courses, and Director of Public Relations, as well as Director of Enrollment services, before retiring at the end of June 1994. In May of 2013 Gordon College named her Professor Emeritus.
She was always involved in every community where she lived. She served as church representative on the board of the Waterford Foundation. She served on the Board of Directors of the Gainesville-Brenau Community Concert Association, Board of Directors of the Gainesville Ballet Company, the Hall County Chapter of the
, and was an original member of the Board of Directors of TUAC, as well as founder of the annual Church Choir Festival in Thomaston. The Business and Professional Women recognized her achievements by naming her Georgia's 1983 Woman of the Year.
As a career music educator, she belonged to many sororities and professional organizations. She was a member of Mu Phi Epsilon, International Music Sorority; Phi Kappa Lambda, Honorary Music Fraternity; Association for Continuing Higher Education; and National Association of University Professors. She was a devoted member of the First Presbyterian Church of Thomaston. As a professional church musician, Dr. Simmons served as Area Representative of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians. She found time to serve her local church and the wider Presbyterian Church as Bible teacher and member of many committees.
Dr Simmons was a loving wife and mother. She is survived by her husband of 59 years, the Dr. Albert E. Simmons, and her children, Albert E. "Bert" Simmons, Jr., (Melana) of Aurora, Mo., Ann S. Browning of Birmingham, Ala., and James C. Simmons (Barbara) of Chester Springs, Penn.; seven grandchildren, Jennifer McInnish and Jeannette Bohde, both of Birmingham, Ala., Jordan Browning of Jeffersonville, Ind., Alexandra Simmons of Atlanta, Rachel Simmons of Chester Springs, Penn., and Erin Simmons and Shannon Simmons, both of Aurora, Mo.; and two great-grandchildren Tripp McInnish and Gabrielle Browning.
Contributions in memory of Dr. Mary Jean Simmons can be made to the First Presbyterian Church, 403 Birdsong Rd., Thomaston, GA 30286.
Pasley-Fletcher Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Remembrances and condolences may be expressed at www.pasleyfletcher.com