BLOOMINGTON — Jasper A. Simmons Jr., 96, Bloomington, passed away at 8:52 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 16, 2014) at Heritage Health in Bloomington.
Jasper was born April 1, 1917, in Jefferson City, Mo., a son to Jasper A. and Ardella Clara Simmons Sr. He married Lois C. Kirkwood on Dec. 24, 1958, in Chicago.
He is survived by a daughter, Regenna Lynne (Jerome) Jordan, Country Club Hills; four sons, Brett Arnette (Staci) Simmons, Gasper Lowell (Linda) Simmons, Wayne David (Kim) Simmons and Jermaine Andrew (Miranda) Simmons, all of Bloomington; a brother, Richard Arnette (Sallie) Simmons, St. Louis, Mo.; a sister, Martha Green, Florida; eight grandchildren, Regenna (Trell) Steppes, Jerome (Stacy) Jordan Jr., Nikki (Brian) Clark, Walker Simmons, Amber Simmons, Tyler (Emily) Simmons, Justin Simmons and Danielle Simmons; and 16 great-grandchildren.
Jasper was preceded in death by his parents; and three sisters, Jeminia Landsdowne, Vivian Hardiman and Mary Bailey.
As a young man, Jasper’s first job was delivering ice and coal with his younger brother, Richard, using a horse and wagon. He later joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, earning a scholarship to Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Mo. Interrupted by World War II, he proudly served his country in the Army as a commander’s driver overseas.
Honorably discharged, he returned to school and graduated from Lincoln University with a bachelor of science degree in high school mathematics education in 1948. He then played baseball with several different teams in the Negro league before beginning his teaching career in Missouri, where he also met his future wife. He moved to Chicago and worked as a bartender prior to moving to Bloomington. In the early 1960s, he had a leadership role with the Bloomington YMCA before moving on to a co-director position with the City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation program.
He helped organize the girls softball leagues in Bloomington-Normal, while umpiring softball games, refereeing basketball games and working to strengthen race relations in the community during the late ’60s and early ’70s. He also attended Illinois Wesleyan University.
After retirement, Jasper continued to umpire softball games into his late 70s and also worked part time at the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal. He attended Wayman AME church for many years. His passion for softball earned him the love and admiration of thousands of participants throughout Central Illinois.
His smile will be greatly missed by his family and all the lifelong friends he made on the ball diamond.
His funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Wayman AME church, Bloomington, the Rev. Charles Orr, pastor. The Rev. Toby Carlos of Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church, Galesburg, will officiate. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. today at Kibler-Brady-Ruestman Memorial Home, Bloomington. Full military rites will be accorded by the Bloomington-Normal American Legion Honor Guard. Interment will be at Park Hill Cemetery, Bloomington.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal. The family has entrusted the care of their loved one to Kibler-Brady-Ruestman Memorial Home, Bloomington.
The family extends their gratitude to the nurses and staff of Heritage Health for their dedication to the care of our beloved father; to Marshall, Laverne, Ruby Howard and Rev. Carlos for their help and guidance; special thanks to Nurse Cox for helping take Jasper, Jazzy J, to his childhood home one last time.
Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.kiblerbradyruestman.com.