Local News

Tuesday, Jul 29 2014 04:24 PM

Couple married almost 62 years die four hours apart

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    By Melissa Sloan/ Special to The Californian

    Don Simpson, left, and Maxine Simpson share a moment in mid-July 2014 in granddaughter Melissa Sloan's home.

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    By Melissa Sloan/ Special to The Californian

    Maxine and Don Simpson share a moment together in early July 2014 at granddaughter Melissa Sloan's home.

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    Photo courtesy of Melissa Sloan Maxine and Don Simpson in a photo from the early 1950s.

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    By Photo courtesy of Melissa Sloan

    Maxine Simpson

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    By Photo courtesy of Melissa Sloan

    Don Simpson

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    Photo courtesy of Melissa Sloan Don and Maxine Simpson with their children James Mack, left, and William Walter, right, in a photo from the early 1960s. The Simpsons adopted the children in Germany.

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    By Melissa Sloan/ Special to The Californian

    Don and Maxine Simspson.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Married for almost 62 years, Don and Maxine Simpson didn't let death keep them apart for long.

The two died within four hours of each other July 21 at the home of one of their granddaughters, where they'd spent their final days side by side. He was 90 and she was 87.

Related Info

Don G. Simpson 1924-2014

Maxine V. Simpson 1926-2014

"They did a lot of amazing things" together, granddaughter Melissa Sloan said Tuesday, ranging from living in Europe to participating in local civic groups.

That included Don's joining the Bakersfield Racquet Club in 1952, working closely in the development of the club and in later years holding the position as its longest standing member. The couple were involved with The Rotary Club of Bakersfield, Woman's Club of Bakersfield, YMCA of Kern County, Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County and the Kern County Museum.

They share a love of travel and dressing well, and their vastly different personalities complemented each other: Don was a jokester, while Maxine was very proper.

"Don enjoyed visiting with everyone at the club, and if you had the privilege of speaking to him during his visits you learned that he had many interesting stories," a message on the club's website stated Tuesday. "We will always smile when we remember some of his favorite lines, and he will always hold a special place in our hearts."

Alan Hodges, former longtime manager of the club, described Simpson as an advocate of sportsmanship and fair play who made friends easily. In recent years Don stopped by the club several times a day to reminisce. And he told great stories.

In the early 1980s, for example, Don, an experienced pilot, flew to San Francisco. As he approached the airport his plane lost power and he landed in the bay.

Asked when he knew he was in trouble, Don responded, "When my luggage floated up past my shoulders."

He suffered only minor injuries.

Neither Don nor Maxine was a native Californian -- Don was from North Dakota, Maxine from New York -- but both spent the bulk of their lives here.

He graduated from UC Berkeley with a civil engineering degree. Hired by an engineering company in San Diego, he worked there exactly one day before being offered a job with an oil company in Elk Hills.

The oil job paid an extra $66 a month. He accepted, and moved to Bakersfield.

Trained as a nurse, she moved to Bakersfield in the early 1950s to care for a relative who had polio.

A night out bowling brought them together.

He played often and was skilled. She had never been bowling because her father considered bowling alleys "the pit of iniquity," according to Sloan.

But accompanied by friends, Maxine finally went bowling one night. Don, as usual, was at the lanes. They were introduced by mutual friends.

Her lack of bowling experience gave him the excuse he needed to keep talking to her and teaching her the game. They hit it off, but he forgot to get her number.

Wanting to see her again, he drove to her house to ask her out. The door was answered by a woman in curlers, wearing glasses and no makeup.

He asked if Maxine was home.

The woman took her glasses off and said, "I'm Maxine!"

She gave him her number anyway.

On dates they discussed their dreams for the future, including traveling the world.

He proposed within six months. His proposal wasn't exactly romantic, but it was logical.

"I guess if we're going to travel the world together we ought to get married," Don said, according to the story passed down to Sloan.

Soon after their marriage in 1952, they moved in Germany where he took a civil engineering job with the U.S. Army, and spent the next few years in Europe.

Maxine wasn't able to have children due to complications from an ectopic pregnancy. They adopted twin 18-month-old boys -- James Mack and William Walter Simpson -- from a German orphanage.

The family returned to the U.S. and settled in Bakersfield, living primarily in the Westchester area. Maxine resumed nursing, and Don worked as chief engineer at the Kern County Public Works Department for a few years before running his own engineering business until 1995.

In their later years he struggled with Alzheimer's disease and she had bladder cancer. In early June, the couple moved into Sloan's residence to be with family. Don fell and broke his hip July 14, and after contracting pneumonia entered the hospital.

Sloan knew the two would want to spend their final moments together, so on July 19 she had Don moved from the hospital to her home and placed his hospice bed next to Maxine's.

They held hands as they lay dying.

Maxine died about 7 a.m. July 21. Her body was taken from the room about 10 a.m., at which point Sloan noticed Don's breathing became labored. He died within the hour.

"When her body left the room his soul left with her," Sloan said.

In addition to Sloan, the Simpsons are survived by their son, James Mack Simpson, of Bakersfield, and four grandchildren. Their other son, William Walter Simpson, died earlier this year.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Aug. 21 at Hillcrest Memorial Park, 9101 Kern Canyon Road.

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