Saturday, August 10, 2019

A Celebration Of The Life Of Jeff Simpson

As most people know, my friend and blog partner, Jeff Simpson, passed away last weekend.

On the behalf of his family, and with their full permission, I am reproducing Jeff's obituary here:

Obituary for Jeffrey William Simpson

COTTAGE GROVE - Jeffrey William Simpson, age 53, of Cottage Grove, beloved husband, father, brother, son, caring friend to all, passed away peacefully at home on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. As he wished, in his final days and hours, he was surrounded by his loving family and close friends. Jeff was born on June 19, 1966, in Beloit, Wis, son of Richard and Sandra (Fornecker) Simpson. In June 1969, his mother married his step-father, John Ryan, when they moved onto John’s family farm in Newark, Wis. Some of his favorite childhood memories were of days at the Rock County 4-H Fair, where he would show his precious pigs and cows, like Esmeralda. Jeff graduated from Parkview High School in Orfordville in 1984. He continued his studies at Beloit College, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a certification in Secondary Education. While attending Beloit College, Jeff played baseball and was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, maintaining life-long bonds with his fraternity brothers.

Jeff married his best friend and the love of his life, Deb Farrar, on Sept. 25, 1999. He readily shared with everyone that he could not believe how fortunate he was to have found Deb, and that such a beautiful and amazing woman agreed to become his wife. Jeff and Deb were blessed with two caring children, Luka (16) and Kennedy (13).

Following college, Jeff worked in sales, with 15 years of his career being spent with New Balance, the athletic shoe company, where he became forever friends with many of his co-workers, as they got together regularly for their annual sales meetings. Jeff aspired for his life to have purpose and meaning, and to leave this world a better place, so in 2012, he decided to serve his community by joining the Monona Grove School Board.

Jeff loved being a father and was always very involved. When Luka and Kennedy were young, he coached their soccer and basketball teams. During their school years, he attended all of Luka’s plays and Kennedy’s dance recitals, showing so much pride while watching them come alive on stage! Throughout his life, Jeff identified with and fought tenaciously for the underdog. His passionate interests included politics, specifically related to education, equity, and labor rights. Jeff was an active political blogger, most recently for Cognitive Dissidence. Through his blogging, and his time on the Monona Grove School board, Jeff was known to be a fighter for truth, for what was right, for educators, and for EVERY student, all based on his foundational belief in the innate goodness of our youth. He was a true champion of humanitarian values, activist for justice, and a strong voice for positive political change. Since his cancer diagnosis in 2010, Jeff has publicly shared his fight against the disease on both Facebook and CaringBridge, always with great honesty and humility, as well as humor.

Kind, witty, courageous, optimistic, strong, and smart, Jeff was most known, and admired, for his deep and loyal relationships and connections with friends, family, and his larger community. His love for his family, big heart, and willingness to help others was absolute and served as the foundation of his identity. Jeff took great joy in traveling with his family, staying at many Bed and Breakfasts with Deb, and being an avid sports fan for the Brewers, Bears, and Badgers, always with Luka by his side. He also loved country music, such as Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, but would thoroughly enjoy a KISS or ACDC concert as well.

Jeff is survived by his wife, Deb Farrar-Simpson; children, Luka Simpson, Kennedy Simpson, and Zach (Janna) Schultzhaus; God Child, Jacquita Wilder; two sisters, Shannon (Rick Brockwell) Ryan and Johna (Dan Moore) Ryan; brother, Larry (Martha) Ryan; parents-in-law, Daniel and Kathleen Farrar; sister-in-law, Kristine (James) Mazzuca and her step-children Brandon and Brooklyn; and Rosie, the devoted family dog. Jeff is also survived by several aunts and uncles, and an abundance of friends. He was preceded in death by his father, Richard S. Simpson; step-father, John C. Ryan; and on July 31, 2019, by his mother, Sandra M. Ryan.

Jeff’s family would like to thank his healthcare team at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center and the compassionate and supportive friends they found through Gilda’s Club and Camp Kesem. They also want to express their gratitude to the multitude of friends who have provided much-needed support throughout Jeff’s cancer journey. Their many acts of kindness and care have been a true blessing.

A celebration of Jeff’s life will be held at MESSIAH LUTHERAN CHURCH, 5202 Cottage Grove Road, Madison, at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, August 23, 2019, with Rev. Jeff Vanden Heuvel presiding. A reception will immediately follow at the church with an opportunity to visit with the family. If you are not able to attend Jeff’s service, yet want to participate, please access the live feed option thru Messiah Lutheran Church’s website

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Gilda’s Club of Madison and Camp Kesem UW-Madison.

Jeff will remain in our hearts forever, until we meet again!

Online condolences may be made at

Gunderson East
Funeral & Cremation Care
5203 Monona Drive
(608) 221-5420
A celebration of Jeff's life will be held on Friday, August 23, at 2 pm.  The celebration will be held at Messiah Lutheran Church, which is at 5202 Cottage Grove Road, Madison, WI. 


  1. I knew Jeff from his writing, which is to say I knew Jeff as a caring, intelligent and sensitive soul committed to good works, standing up for the humanity of another.

    Jeff seemed personally betrayed by the cruelty and indifference that has defined public affairs since 2001.

    Jeff Simpson's prose never wavered. Jeff stood up, spoke out and challenged those would deny the liberty and health of others. I think this is because Jeff Simpson recognized himself in other people, a perception that eludes many.

    Jeff and his colleagues have bore witness to the state of Wisconsin and myriad levels of government outright rejecting why government exists — a means to serve and protect.

    Jeff Simpson's reverence ought to be saluted along with his indignation towards those in government who would deny others' humanity.

    "The religion of Moloch — as such creeds may be generically called — is in essence the cringing submission of the slave, who dare not, even in his heart, allow the thought that his master deserves no adulation. Since the independence of ideals is not yet acknowledged, Power may be freely worshipped, and receive an unlimited respect, despite its wanton infliction of pain," wrote Bertrand Russell, (A Free Man's Worship (1903)).

    Jeff Simpson is an uncompromising man, scalding in his challenge to those inflicting violence, and uncompromising in our collective fight for humanity whom he worshiped with obvious determination and joy.

    Thank you, Jeff.