Grace Pow Simpson

Published 3:01 pm Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Grace Pow Simpson, a former poet laureate of Virginia, and a beloved wife, mother, teacher and friend, died February 11, 2016, in Farmville. She was 84. She was born in Georgetown, SC, to Grace P. and Paul H. Pow.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Winthrop College in 1953, Grace married Hassell A. Simpson, whom she had met when he was a student at Clemson. Together they pursued graduate studies at Florida State before Grace gave birth to the first of their three sons. In 1962, the family settled at Hampden-Sydney College, where Hassell joined the English department faculty and the couple became active members of College Church.

In 1973, Grace finished an M.A. in English at Longwood College and took a position at Prince Edward County High School, where she taught until 1988. She wrote poetry for much of her life. She belonged to the Poetry Society of Virginia, and her work appeared in such journals as The Cincinnati Poetry Review, The Formalist, Southern Poetry Review, and Zone 3, from which she received the Rainmaker Award in 1991. Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore appointed Grace poet laureate for 2000-2002.

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During her term she traveled across the state, giving readings and talks. She stressed that verse should be memorized so that it is immediately available as a comfort or a pleasure. Her collection “Dancing the Bones” won the Writer’s Digest award for best self-published poetry book of 2001. That year, she read from her work at the National Festival of the Book in Washington, D.C. In 2002, Hampden-Sydney College awarded her an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

People cherished her bright spirit, lively conversation and caring ways. The family would like to thank her caregiver, Sherry Navat, and the many friends and neighbors who visited Grace and helped her in her last years.

Grace and Hassell were married for 60 years before he died in 2013.

She is survived by her sons, David Simpson (and wife, Teresa Annas) of Norfolk, John Simpson (and wife, Lynne) of Powder Springs, GA, and Bill Simpson (and wife, Kathleen) of Brownsville, OR; nieces and nephews; and grandnieces and grandnephews.

The family will receive visitors from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 11, at Puckett Funeral Home.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 12, at College Church, Hampden-Sydney. A reception will follow at the church.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Grace and Hassell Simpson Prize for Excellence in English, Hampden-Sydney College, P.O. Box 637, Hampden-Sydney VA 23943, or to College Church, P.O. Box 13, Hampden-Sydney VA 23943.

Puckett Funeral Home, Farmville, is serving the family.