Lois Anna was born to Robert and Margaret (Conger) McCormick on September 5, 1923 in Valentine. She joined an older sister, Marie and later Albert was born to complete the family. They farmed and ranched in Keya Paha County between Sparks and Norden. The McCormick children attended Happy Hollow School. Robert and Margaret established the Happy Hollow Presbyterian Church.
When her sister Marie was ready for high school, the family moved into Valentine, purchasing a home on Cherry Street. Lois joined the Valentine Presbyterian Church in 1937 at age 14 and remained a life-long member. She graduated from high school in 1941 as class President and Valedictorian. Though she wanted to attend Nurse’s Training, the scholarship she received was not enough to help meet the costs of tuition, so she found employment during the early war years at Production Credit Association and then as secretary for Sam McKelvie publishing the “Sandhills Feeder Cattle Producers” a cattle sales bulletin. She later worked at the County Treasurer’s office for Albert Foster. Lois joined the Cherry Rebekah Lodge in December 1941, serving as Noble Grand in 1944, and received her 50 year pin in 1991.
In 1944 she answered a recruiter’s call and joined the U.S. Navy as a member of the WAVES. She was stationed in New York City, Stillwater, OK and Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Chicago. After WW II she returned to Valentine and was employed by Bryan Quigley in the County Attorney’s office.
In 1948 Lois married Donald Simmons whose parents homesteaded northeast of Valentine. Lois and Don lived on the family ranch working with his parents Art & Stella and his brother and sister-in-law Kenneth and Jean. Children Joyce, Robert and Donna were born. In 1955 they moved to a leased ranch south of Eli on the Niobrara River. Bruce was born soon after the move. The ranch was purchased from the Larson family and over the years, other land was added. The family worked together building the ranch with Lois as homemaker, bookkeeper and sometimes outdoor help when all the children were attending the little grade school down the road. Lois for many years served as the School Board Secretary/ Treasurer and on the election board.
She had a keen interest in all plants and wild life of the Sandhills prairie and Niobrara Valley, acquiring a good knowledge of native grasses, forbes and flowers. For years she kept a record of her “bird sightings” and loved to see the blue birds use her bird houses. She found time for Extension Club and her children’s 4-H Club projects.
Don and Lois turned ranch operations over to their grown sons and enjoyed the freedom to travel in the U.S., Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Lois still loved home best, especially when the grandchildren visited. Don and Lois retired “to town” in 2007 and Don died in 2010 at age 90.
Lois was preceded in death by Don her husband of 62 years, by her parents, her sister and brother-in-law Marie and Evert Shelbourn, her brother Albert McCormick, brother and sister-in-law Kenneth and Jean Simmons and brother-in-law Bob Gass.
Surviving her are children Joyce Simmons, Donna (Michael) Keenan of Valentine, Bob (Nancy) Simmons of Eli, Bruce (Shelley) Simmons of Gordon, sisters-in-law Verla Gass and Lucy McCormick, grandchildren and great grandchildren Aaron Simmons of Texas; Nick (Jamie) Simmons and son Connor of Eli; Tracy Simmons, Tara (Oliver) Bantam and twin sons Graham and Wright of Omaha, Rachel and Sally Keenan of Lincoln, Preston and Peyton Simmons of Gordon.
Funeral service for Lois Simmons was held Saturday, December 8, 2012 at the Presbyterian Church in Valentine. Pastor Tim Oleksy officiated at the 4:00 p.m. service. Burial followed at Mount Hope Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the family. Sandoz Chapel of the Pines was entrusted with funeral arrangements. On line condolences may be sent to www.sandozfuneralhome.com.