In Loving Memory

Alfred Vance "Van" Simpson

May 24, 1942 - March 24, 2024

Remembering Van

Van Simpson, a remarkable man cherished for his warmth, humor, and thoughtfulness, has gone to be with the Lord after 81 wonderful years. He found joy in flying, playing country and gospel on his guitar, exploring the United States, doing crosswords, and delving into the realms of westerns and sci-fi literature.

Born in Marion, Kentucky to Carey and Marie Simpson, Van shared his upbringing with his brothers Eugene, Michael, and Joseph, and he was especially fond of his time growing up in Mississippi on Cherry Street. In his teens, his family moved to Arizona, and he graduated in 1961 from Page High School. His adventurous spirit led him across the western states, where he made Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and Arizona places he called home. Among his many passions, flying held a special place in his heart, and he soared the skies in his beloved 210 Cessna whenever possible. Van dedicated his career to the mastery of ironworking with Local 75, leaving an indelible mark on the industry. His craftsmanship adorned numerous high-rise buildings in Phoenix, AZ, and various other locations throughout the United States. Notably, he played an important role in the construction of vital dams across the western region, including Little Goose, John Day, Lower Granite, and Glen Canyon, among others. Beyond his professional accomplishments, Van's enduring legacy lies in his infectious smile, melodious songs, and captivating stories. His absence leaves a profound void in the lives of all who were fortunate to know him.

Van is survived by his brother Mike Simpson, his devoted wife of fifty years, Joni-Dawn Simpson (Mathewson), and his former spouse, Ruth Wondra (Jones). He also leaves behind his sons with Ruth, Phillip Simpson, and Dr. Kenneth Simpson; and daughter with Joni-Dawn, Dawn Simpson, as well as his adored grandchildren Lucas, Chandler, Carey, Bailey Day, MeKenna, and Riker. Although he has gone on to the next journey, Van's spirit will continue to resonate in the hearts of those he knew, forever remembered, loved, and deeply missed.


To fly West, my friend, is a flight we must all take for a final check.

I met Van Simpson on September 25, 1971. I know that’s the date because it’s entered in my logbook. Van strolled into Red Carpet Flying Service in Walla Walla, and allowed as how he’d like to take flying lessons. I was the instructor on duty, so we got into a little blue and white Cessna 150, N2492J, and took off into the southwest Washington skies. I made the takeoff and once we got a few hundred feet in the air I turned the controls over to Van. I explained some technical aviation things, like “if you pull back the houses get littler, if they start getting bigger again you pulled back too far.” We cruised around for about an hour until he had the basics down pretty well, then headed back to the airport. My technique on a first flight was to talk the student through the approach until they started having trouble, then I’d take over and demonstrate the landing. Van flew it all the way to the ground and made, if not a good, at least an acceptable landing, without me touching the controls. That was the first and only time in my thousand or so hours of primary instructor experience that ever happened. I also talked him through an actual instrument approach in weather down to about 500 feet, when he had less than 10 hours of flight time. Again, something few could do. But then he was fond of saying “anything anyone else can do a lot of…”

That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that lasted over 50 years. For the last 20 years or so we talked on the phone almost every night…and solved most of the world’s problems if anyone had been listening.

Fly West my brother.

- Daniel Johnson

Memories of Uncle Van go way back to 1976, after my mom and dad got married. Uncle Van and Aunt Joni took my mom and dad to Las Vegas to get married, and when they returned Grandma made a beautiful cake but 7-year-old me really wanted to try it. I ate the tops of the cake, Grandma was upset, and Uncle Van whispered in my ear “Was it good?” Uncle Van always liked making a positive out of a negative. He encouraged your dreams and visions and had amazing stories to share. The last two winters I reconnected with my Aunt and Uncle, after so long away from each other. It felt like we saw each other yesterday. When I had to drive a long distance and was afraid, Uncle Van was there, encouraging me by phone, telling me stories and giving me advice. I will miss Uncle Van so much. I feel so thankful and grateful to have an amazing uncle that never gave up. Such a true and beautiful soul. I will always love you Uncle Van, now you can spend time with your family and furry angel friends until we all meet again. I will miss you Uncle Van. Thank you for all your advice, wisdom and showing all of us how to truly love someone forever as you do to Aunt Joni. I love and miss you Aunt Joni, see you in the winter. 🙏🏼

Love always, Jennifer 💕🌹

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