Jack Simpson

September 12, 1924September 20, 2020
Obituary of Jack Simpson
(Dad’s Celebration of Life) It will be Saturday, October 24, starting at Blessed Sacrament Church, Sharpes, FL with an instrumental prelude from 10:30 to 11 am and Mass from 11 to Noon. Family and “practically family” will provide the music. The Celebration continues From 1-4 pm at the Downtown Cocoa Village Gazebo (remember your fold-up chairs and your masks so says Town of Cocoa) to honor “Gentleman Jack” in the style most befitting of his jazzy demeanor, with live jazz featuring the Ron Teixeira Jazz Trio. Other musician friends of the Simpsons will be there to “sit in” as a tribute to Jack. We will also remember the life of legendary multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan, who had passed away the day after my father and was a close friend of both our Dad and Mother. Hope you will be able to join us. Jack Simpson passed away peacefully on September 20, at 96. We will miss him so much but are comforted by the belief that he is now joyfully reunited with our dear Mother and his beloved wife, Lorraine Simpson, who passed away just three months earlier. A kind and loving father who had a great impact on all who knew him with his keen focus and success with not only his dedication to his family and community, faith in God and doing the right thing, but also his passion for his world of jazz. A true pioneer of jazz in Brevard and surrounding areas, Jack started his Jazz on the Beach show in 1967 and has been going strong for 53 years, the last 37 at WUCF in Orlando. A little history on this very special man…In 1924, he was born in Lancashire, England to Frank and Gertrude May Simpson. In Leeds as a teen, he became enamored with all things American, especially movies (an ardent fan of Mickey Rooney in the old Andy Hardy movies) and the music of jazz (Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Chicago jazzman Ira Sullivan, to name a just a few of his favorites). Starting in 1942, he served in the Royal Air Force for 4 1/2 years, with 2 years spent in India as an instructor, specializing in wireless radios. There he acquired the nickname “Yank” as he manned the record player in the mess hall, impersonating a disc jockey (...shades of what was to come). After his service ended in 1947, he moved across the pond to New York to realize his dream of becoming an American citizen. He soon started working for RCA, installing television antennas on the roof tops of high rise buildings in the Bronx. Soon thereafter, he was promoted to sales manager in the RCA store. In 1956, he met and married his soul mate, “Sweet Lorraine” the sister-in-law of one of his friends. In 1958, the two moved to Cocoa, Florida, with baby daughter Corinne in tow, when RCA offered him a management position working at the USAF Eastern Test Range in support of the NASA Space Program. Three sons, John, Jeff, and Ken, would come along to complete the Simpson progeny after settling in Florida. Having experienced the wealth of jazz in NYC, Jack Simpson was missing his favorite music. In Cocoa, there was essentially no jazz being played on the local airwaves. At the urging of his wife Lorraine, he persuaded radio station WRKT, to let him broadcast a one-hour jazz show one night a week. With the unwavering support of wife Lorraine, Jack Simpson’s Jazz on the Beach became one of the longest-running shows of its type in the country. Over the years, Jack featured interviews with many of the greats including Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Stan Getz, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Dizzy Gillespie. Regarding personal standards for the show, Jack would say, “I like all different kinds of jazz, but whatever it is, it has to swing!” At Heidi’s Jazz Club, Cocoa Beach, where he had spent many a Thursday night with Lorraine to see Sybil Gage, he was treated to Sybil’s N’Orleans Style Happy Birthday song on his 96th, which got the swing nod of approval. For 30 years, he produced jazz concerts for charity in Brevard County, and for a decade, he was the president of the Space Coast Jazz Society. Jack was also chairman of the advisory board for the United Way sponsored Community Food Bank for over 25 years. He began a series of annual jazz benefit concerts for the Food Bank that featured stars such as bebop trumpet greats, Dizzy Gillespie and Howard McGhee, and multi-instrumentalist and three-time Grammy nominee, Ira Sullivan. These concerts also featured a multi-racial singing group called the Junior Messengers, who sang songs of love and brotherhood throughout Brevard County. Wife Lorraine, while a social worker at the Brevard Community Action Agency, organized the group, which helped foster a Music Scholarship program for deserving high school students interested in musical careers. Because of his 30 years of broadcasting Jazz on the Beach on WUCF, combined with his leadership with the Space Coast Jazz Society, Central Florida Jazz Society and voluntary work with other organizations, he was honored with a proclamation for a “Jack Simpson Day” in Orlando (April 20, 2013) by the Office of the Orange County Mayor. Jack not only loved jazz, but was an avid fan of the comedy of Bob and Ray and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. And lest we forget his whiskered friends... their love for him, it never ends. Jazzman Jack, he’s known to many; adoring cats, they are a-plenty! Jack will be lovingly remembered by his children: Corey Kondas and her husband Walter of Newtown, CT; John Simpson and his wife Vicki of Port St. John, FL; Jeff Simpson and his wife Deborah of Marietta, GA; and Ken Simpson and his wife Ellen of Carmel, IN; grandchildren: Joni Kondas of New Haven, CT; Sean Kondas of Boston, MA; Shandi and Nolan Simpson of Port St. John, FL; Gabriel, Ava and Liam Simpson of Marietta, GA; and Patrick Simpson of NYC, NY; and great grandchildren: Kambrie and Kayden. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Jack’s memory to WUCF-FM Radio (407) 823-0899; Blessed Sacrament Church - Catholic Charities Outreach Program (321) 632-6333; or Brevard Humane Society (321) 636-3343 Ext. 201.

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