Bernard W. Simpkins
March 17, 1928 – October 16, 2020
Bernie passed away peacefully October 16, 2020 at 92 years old. An icon of the Brevard community, Bernie lived life to the fullest and achieved much during his time on Earth.
Born 3/17/1928 in Ashland City, TN, he moved to Cocoa, FL in 1962 with his wife, LaVonn, and two daughters. Bernie was well-known throughout Brevard County, FL as an entrepreneur and real estate developer. He was passionate about faith, family and business and worked into his 90’s, visiting his office in Cocoa until weeks before his death. He loved piloting his Beech Barons, his Tennessee roots, visiting his home in North Carolina, golf, and practical jokes. He valued his Methodist church upbringing, a tight-knit family, and hard work. In fact, he authored his own story of life and business experience in his book, “The Harder You Work, The Luckier You Become”. Many remember him as a formidable negotiator, a patriot that advocated for Conservative values, his wonderful sense of humor and his generosity as a philanthropist.
Bernie married LaVonn Poole, the love of his life, in 1950 and was married 66 yrs. before her passing in 2017. He leaves behind daughter Jill Simpkins of Ormond Beach, grandsons Bernard Blake Hunter (Leila), Adam Crouch (Brittany), and Kyle Jakubcin, as well as granddaughter Brittany Sobering (Sam), and five great-grandchildren. He joins LaVonn, his daughter Jan Jakubcin, and grandson Alex Crouch in heaven.
During his life, Bernie served in the United States Army, built multiple businesses in Florida, and earned multiple awards and honors in the business and education communities. He started his own oil business in Cocoa in 1962 and was joined in business in 1971 by his long-time partner, Fletcher Sheriff. Together they started S&S Enterprises, Inc. From there, they expanded their business from gasoline/convenience stores to a Goodyear Tire Store to S&S Toyota Dealership and Thrifty Car rental business among many other real estate endeavors.
Bernie donated generously to Eastern Florida State College where he started the “B. W. Simpkins Entrepreneurship Seminar Series,” and was a former chairman of the Brevard Community College Board of Trustees, and the Fine Arts building was named for him.
He and LaVonn loved their church and were long-time members of the United Methodist Church of Cocoa. He served on many Brevard County boards including SunTrust bank, YMCA, the Chamber of Commerce where, in the early 1960’s he chaired the “520 Action Committee” which was successful in getting the high-rise bridge constructed between Cocoa and Merritt Island. He was actively involved with Aging Matters, the Cocoa Kiwanis, American Cancer Society, 4-H Club, Keep Brevard Beautiful, Junior Achievement and the Brevard Museum. The Simpkins Family also formed a charitable foundation.
One of his favorite sayings (which he credits to his mother) was “Hold your head up high and be somebody!” Bernie lived this mantra every day and inspired others to do the same. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him and we will continue to be inspired by his legacy.
Funeral will take place at Grace United Methodist Church on Merritt Island on Wednesday, October 21 11:00am (please observe social distancing and masks required). Due to health concerns and limited seating a virtual service will be available at www.firstunited.org.
Memorials may be sent to Grace United Methodist or Eastern Florida State College Foundation in honor of B.W. Simpkins.
Celebration of Life
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Bernard W. Simpkins
October 20, 2020
Dennis and I were blessed to know Bernie and Lavonne and their beautiful girls.
They sat in front of us at church and were pillars of the church and community🙏Those were wonderful days in our Cocoa Church. They showed us how to walk with God thru the beauty and heart breaks of life.
With love, Dennis and Diane
October 19, 2020