GASTONIA - Fred Martin Simmons, a Cleveland County legend at 99 years, passed away Dec. 6, 2014.
A beloved father, husband, brother and friend, Fred was born in Paris, Texas on Jan. 21, 1915, son of John Fred and Rosa Mauney Simmons.
After returning home to rural North Carolina in the 1920s, Fred took a keen interest in Scouting, earning 65 badges on his Road to Eagle which he was awarded December 16, 1933. For many years, Mr. Simmons has held the distinction of being the oldest living Eagle Scout in Piedmont Council – an honor he held in high esteem.
A 1933 graduate of Polkville High School, Fred studied architecture and engineering at NC State University. Fred's interest in pioneer aviation led to studies of aeronautics at Aero Industries Technical Institute in Oakland, California. These studies paid off as
Fred joined forces with 3 other pioneer aviators forming The 4 Aces, a flying circus of grassroots barnstormers and wingwalkers. As a tribute to his aviation career, Mr. Simmons name is enshrined on the Wall of Honor at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC.
In 1937, Fred married Eunice Mae Sharpe, daughter of Joe and Eula McPherson Sharpe. The couple moved to Charleston, S.C. where Fred worked as Chief Engineering Draftsman in the Naval Yard.
After returning to North Carolina, Fred received his Architectural License #636 in 1949 and began a long and distinguished career with the opening of his own firm, Fred M Simmons, Inc. Architect and Engineers, 924 E. Dixon Boulevard in Shelby. This state of the art office was one of the first air conditioned buildings in the county.
Inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Mr. Simmons worked on the cutting edge of architectural design in the 1950s and 1960s. A talented residential and religious designer, he was also a pioneer in the use of pre-stressed concrete in commercial design. Fred's use of pre-stressed concrete in the Sears Building in Gastonia, NC (early 1950s) received regional acclaim. Cleveland County Social Services Building, Cleveland Funeral Services, Maranatha Baptist Church Gastonia, are a few of the designs in his legacy prior to retiring in 2007 at the young age of 92.
Mr. Simmons' public and community services included: Board of Directors for the Polkville Volunteer Fire Department; Cleveland County Chief Engineering and Public works with Civil Defense; Upper Cleveland Little Theater group; past president, fundraiser, and member emeritus of Boiling Springs Rotary Club, recipient of the Paul Harris Fellows award. Fred was a charter member of the 1st Air Squadron of Air Sea Rescue of the US Coast Guard in Charleston, SC. He was a member of the OX5 Club, Vintage Air-craft Association and Experimental Aircraft Association.
Fred was a dedicated member of Ascension Lutheran church where he served on the Church Council, as delegate to NC Lutheran Synod's Worship and Fine Arts Committee and as adult Sunday school teacher for more than 20 years. Mr. Simmons was architect and designer of the fellowship hall addition in the 1970s.
Fred Martin Simmons was preceded in death by his parents, John Fred Simmons and Rosa Mauney Simmons; by his loving wife of 61 years, Eunice Mae Sharpe Simmons, and brother, Glenn Mauney Simmons of Winston-Salem. Survivors include daughters, Fredrika Carol Simmons of Rochester Hills, Michigan and Suzanne Sharpe Simmons of Gastonia; sisters, Dorothy Simmons Paul of Shelby, and Imogene Simmons Carroll of Destin, Fla.; sisters-in-law Jeanette Beheler Simmons of Winston-Salem, Nell Sharpe Romanosky of Johns Island, S.C., and Jameselle Sharpe Ott of Lugoff, S.C.; granddaughter, Kelsey Christine Soderstrom of New York City and fiancé Mark Fullbright, grandson Spencer Cameron Soderstrom of Rochester Hills, Michigan and numerous nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life for Fred Simmons will be held 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in the Cleveland Funeral Services Chapel, 2518 West Dixon Blvd., Shelby, NC, 28150 with Pastor Christina Auch officiating.
Visitation and reception will be at Ascension Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall, 300 N. Lafayette Street, Shelby, NC 28150.
Memorials may be sent to Ascension Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 266, Shelby, NC 28151, Schiele Muse-um 18th C Backcountry Lifeways Program, 1500 E. Garrison Boulevard, Gastonia, NC 28054 or Union Baptist Church "Cemetery Fund", 3800 Polkville Road, Shelby, NC 28150.
Funeral arrangements will be coordinated by Cleveland Funeral Services, 2518 West Dixon Boulevard, Shelby, NC 28150.
For online condolences, contact www.clevelandfuneralservices.com.
Published by Gaston Gazette on Dec. 11, 2014.