Alvin John Simpkins, Jr.June 4, 1926 ~ December 23, 2017 (age 91)
Alvin “Big Al” Simpkins was born in Fairfield Connecticut to parents Alvin J. Simpkins Sr. and Katherine Rentz Simpkins.
In 1952 he moved to Hialeah, FL with his wife Barbara.
After 16 years there and employed by Pan Am World Airways, he moved his family to Florida Highlands in Marion County in 1968.
After moving to Marion Co. with his wife and five children in a remote area of SE Marion Co. he approached the local telephone company, United Telephone CEO, to ask that phone service be installed from Ocala. At that time there were only two horse ranches in the 20 miles from Ocala to Florida Highlands and the Citrus County line. The CEO argued that there were not enough residents to justify the expense to run cable 20 miles from Ocala to the Citrus Co. Line and if he could get 25 people with deposits, they would consider running the cable. He said the chances of doing this would be impossible.
After 3 weeks he presented the required deposits and United Telephone reluctantly installed service to the Citrus County line.
During his years as a resident here he was instrumental and actively involved with starting the Dunnellon Rescue Squad and made his first rescue vehicle from a Ford pick up truck.
In his 16 years as a volunteer he approached the Marion County Commission with other community leaders of Dunnellon, Russ James (Dunnellon Press), Gary Manning (Manager of WTRS Radio), Paul Johnson (Chamber of Commerce), Jack Fitch (Fitch Real Estate); and started the beginning and subsequent re-birth of what is now known as the Dunnellon Marion County Airport.
Marion County during those years declared that they could not fund any money for the airport and hearing this he succeeded in advising the commission to bid out the large growth of pine lumber on the property, bringing in $90,000. As chairman of the Airport Advisory Board, he actively sought ways and means to return the airport to an operating business and an asset to Marion County.
Attending the regional district meeting of the FAA in Orlando, FL., he was able to get a $25,000 grant from the State of Florida, Aviation Division to start a master plan for the airport and helped designate the future of the airport in conjunction with the consultants. He also helped organize and produce two Air Shows at the airport and served as Safety Director for both events.
During his years as a building contractor, he built the first two Geodesic Dome Homes in Marion County and one in Citrus County. Other buildings were the Dunnellon Press, Dunnellon Fire Department, Dunnellon Public Works Water facility, Florida Highlands Fire House.
During these years, he was one of the first in a group of seven volunteers to start the Dunnellon Rescue Squad as an EMT and later as captain and converted its first rescue vehicle from a four wheel drive pick-up truck as needed to also cover remote areas in Gulf Hammock, Levy Co. and parts of Citrus Co.
Organizations he was part of were:
Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council known as EMSAC which was the guiding group setting up ambulance and rescue services for the county.
Chairman and member of the Dunnellon Marion County Airport Advisory Board, 1977 to 1999.
Charter member and Chief of the Florida Highlands Volunteer. Fire Department and helped build the Fire Station.
During the period of time in Marion County he was a state licensed Building Contractor for 20 years.
Received the “Service Above Self Award” from the Dunnellon Chamber of Commerce in recognition of starting the redevelopment of the airport and his successful efforts to start Medical and Fire Services in Marion County.
Military service started as an enlisted Aviation Cadet in high school in 1943 in the United States Army Air Corp. He entered active service in 1944 and was sent to Biloxi, Mississippi for basic training. The pilot program was stopped during this time and he was sent to Kingman Air Force Base in Arizona and trained as a ball turret gunner on B17’s. During his flight training he was one of a very small group of people who had the distinction of flying into the Grand Canyon in a B17 Flying Fortress. Due to lack of aircraft to assign crews, he was sent to Childress TX, and having had a mechanical background in school, was assigned as an aircraft maintenance chief. Shortly after her was sent to Madison WS for transition to the European Theatre of Operation or ETO.
After a few days, he was discharged from the Army Air Corp and enlisted into the United States Air Force then proceeded to NY and sent to Europe on a troopship. While on active service in France and Germany he was assigned to the 884th Air Engineering squadron as a Maintenance Chief. After a few months in Germany he was sent to Marseille, France to Istres Airfield to start a flying school for newly arriving pilots and salvaging aircraft for them to fly. Returned to Eshborn, Germany later and resumed duties of maintenance chief until returning to the United States.
After discharge, he was in the reserves for 6 years. His love of aircraft prompted him to seek jobs in these companies:
He worked for United Aircraft and helped assemble the last five Corsair fighters built there before they moved the plant to Texas. He worked as a modification specialist for Arthur Godfrey’s CAA Repair Station at the airport in Stratford, CT. After Godfrey closed the business, he was hired as a final inspector on the first jet engines built by AVCO Manufacturing Co. in the former United Aircraft facility at the Stratford, CT Airport.
He is a charter member of the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, LA.
In 1952 he and Barbara Sexton married and moved to Hialeah, FL., where he started work with Pan AM World Airways and was with them 16 years as a modification and electrical specialist.
He is survived by his loving wife of 66 years, Barbara; daughters Donna Rose Tackett and husband Michael, Laura Katherine Brumby and husband Bill; sons Daniel Thomas Simpkins and wife Debbie, Brian Alvin Simpkins and wife Patty, and Gary Scott Simpkins.
He is survived by brothers Donald Simpkins and wife Dorothy, Lorenz Simpkins and wife Phyllis, and Gerald Simpkins and wife Lorraine.
Grandchildren Michelle Smith Brown and husband Bill, Jolene Marie Smith, Justin Daniel Simpkins, Jared Thomas Simpkins and wife Samantha, Meghan Layne Brumby, William Hunter Brumby, Brian Michael Simpkins, and Kristi McKenzie.
Great grandchildren are William Wyatt Brown, Emma Ryley Brown, Caden Faith Simpkins, Ella Hope Simpkins, Bailey Grace Simpkins, Mason Grady Simpkins and Jace McKenzie as well as several nieces and nephews in Florida, New Jersey and Georgia.
Veterans Helping Veterans USA
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