On Friday, January 27, 2023, Marilyn Ann (Quinn) Simpkins, loving wife, mother, matriarch, artist, scientist, and storyteller, passed away at the age of 97.
Marilyn was born on August 29, 1925 in Denver, CO to Frank and Agnes Quinn, the third of four children to this charming couple, an Irish immigrant and his beloved Iowa farm girl. The Quinn’s raised their children to value hard work, education, and a Godliness above all things. Mary, her sister Francis, and her brothers Bud and Frank all earned college degrees in science, at the instruction of their father, from his deep concern for their financial independence and lifelong career stability. He had seen his own mother dispossessed of their generational lands in Ireland, and sworn to never see his own children suffer a life without economic mobility and personal freedom. Agnes was a gentle soul and guide to the Quinn children, crying any time they fought, and leading by example in gentleness, love and grace. Mary emulated the qualities of both of her parents in her own life and as the matriarch of her own family.
Marilyn had an inherently playful spirit, and was known for her quick wit, infectious smile, and sweet personality. She loved God deeply, recited the rosary every night, prayed feverishly for those in need, and had an ever-present passiveness about her. She also had a passion for cows, and a covert propensity for naughty humor.
Mary was a pioneering woman in science. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Loretto Heights College in Denver CO in 1946, at a time when few women had accomplished such a thing, entering into a man's world from the get go. Her first jobs included taking samples of radioactive particles in the air from the field station in Hanford Laboratories during World War II, which indicated Russian missile testing from wind drift down to Washington from Canada. It was an exciting time, and her work was of great importance to our military strategy in the war and the future of our country as we know it. She went on from Hanford to work in several government and private lab facilities on protected research projects, including working for General Electric on the “Manhattan Project”, at Rocky Flats on many projects, and at Boeing Company in research and development. She had a long career, and a brilliant mind.
Early into her career, when she was working at Hanford, she met a handsome air force veteran at the VA. Strong and tall, with piercing blue eyes and a dream to become an aerospace engineer, Everett Simpkins swept her off her feet. After a courtship for the books, Everett and Marilyn were wed on September 7, 1949, and proceeded to raise a family. They had two daughters, Cynthia, and Kristine, and one son, James.
A principled yet lighthearted mother, Mary told her children the truth of things as a matter of fact, was sparing with her praises, and showed her love mostly through spending time with those she loved doing the things she cherished most, namely telling stories, talking, making crafts, and going to church. She enjoyed the simple things, and not great extravagances, and inspired her children and their children to do the same.
After retiring from her career in science, Mary gave herself permission to pursue her creative side, and returned to school in her 50's. In 1978, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from California State University Northridge, yet again being an exemplar in boundary breaking behavior - a woman ahead of her time. Marilyn had held a lifelong passion for the arts, that she had not always been encouraged or able to pursue due to both the values and financial constraints of her upbringing, yet despite these odds she played piano and was an accomplished painter.
As a grandmother, Mary was honest, silly, helpful, and creative. She generously shared her many great stories from her own life and years at college, her childhood, her childrearing years, the family genealogy and history, and Irish culture and folklore. She had many talents, and was happy to help on any project or experiment the kiddos came up with. She spent time caregiving for all of her ten grandchildren at some point. If one was so lucky, she may have even read their tarot cards, made them a slim fast milkshake, or given them a metamucil cookie - - - a real treat.
By leading her family with ever steady loving presence, serving humanity through her career in science, pursuing her own path in the arts, and steadfast practice of the power of prayer, Mary was a quiet but bold example of a life lived with joy, in God's will.
Marilyn was preceded in death by her father Frank, her mother Agnes, her sister Francis, her brother Bud, and her beloved husband Everett.
She is survived by her brother Jack, her three children, Cynthia, Kristine and James, ten grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held on Saturday, February 25th, 2023 at STS Peter & Paul Catholic Church in St. Paul, NE at 1 o’clock p.m. Interment will be in the Mt. Hope Cemetery in Scotia, Nebraska. Father Vince Parsons will be presiding. Flowers or donations may be sent to Jacobsen-Greenway-Dietz Funeral Home in St. Paul, Nebraska in care of Marilyn Simpkins. .
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