William Guyton Simmons


April 11, 1945  –  April 23, 2024


image of William Guyton Simmons

William Guyton Simmons

William Guyton Simmons, affectionately known as Bill, was born on April 11, 1945, to George Lane and June Clay Simmons in Gulfport, Mississippi. One of his earliest memories was eating spaghetti in Rome, Italy where his Dad, after WWII, was a pilot for TWA . June said that Bill spoke English as a second language in those days because of time spent with his live-in Italian nanny. His younger brother, James, joined the family in 1949. George re-enlisted in the new US Air Force during the Korean War and the family joined him afterwards for a year living in Occupied Japan where he picked up Japanese from his playmates.  The family finally settled in 1956 in Bellevue, Washington, where Bill graduated from Sammamish High School in 1963.

In 1968, Bill graduated from the University of Washington with a major in Soviet Regional Studies, living in the Russian house and speaking Russian daily. There he met and married Martha Lynn English, from Volcano, Hawaii. Upon graduation, he entered the United States Air Force, following in his father’s footsteps. Because of his years of ROTC training at the UW, he entered as a Second Lieutenant and later advanced to Captain while serving in the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and The Air Medal, for Extraordinary and Meritorious Achievement while participating in Aerial Flight. After the war, he was stationed at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, until his discharge in 1977.

Bill and Lynn had a son, Michael, born in May 1973. They lived in Fairfield until their divorce in 1978. Despite the separation, Bill remained a dedicated father, from sending tape recordings of Grimm’s Fairy Tales to Michael in Hawaii to regular phone calls and summer  and Christmas vacations on the mainland, ensuring a lasting bond.

In 1980, Bill married his “high school sweetheart” Patricia Vogel Wright, blending their families with her children, Michael and Michelle. This new family unit became one of Bill’s greatest legacies, marked by enduring love and dedication. Bill is survived by his wife “Patti”, brother James, his son Michael and daughter-in-law DeEtta, stepchildren Michelle and Michael, son-in-law Arnold, granddaughter Selena, step-granddaughters Allorah, Kyah, and great-step -grand-daughter Kahlani along with many extended family members.

After his Air Force service, Bill worked with the Industrial Development Group, Palo Alto CA as a specialist exporter, which took him on extended business trips to the Middle East and Europe. Later, he found his calling as a lawyer in Washington State. Bill was an avid reader, gifted storyteller, and known for his remarkable memory. He was methodical, habitual, and careful, always seeking new adventures and discoveries.

Bill had a deep love for the outdoors and often led family and friends on rigorous hikes, fondly referred to as “death marches,” to breathtaking destinations. He enjoyed exercising, albeit with much huffing and puffing, and found solace in many varieties of custom made earplugs and a good book, especially to mitigate his sensitivity to noise. His daily routines included muting commercials, recording PBS News Hour, and reading the Wall Street Journal and local newspapers.

A lifelong conservative Republican, campaigning first for “Goldwater in ’64”, Bill expressed his political views with passion and respect for democratic principles. He valued authenticity and straightforwardness, both in his food preferences and his outlook on life.

Bill’s adventurous spirit continued post-Air Force. He moved to Fremont California, flew Cessnas to property owner’s board meetings at the Sea Ranch, and enjoyed memorable road trips in iconic cars like the Volvo P1800 and the Ford Fairmont, humorously dubbed “The Gutless Wonder.” His meticulously planned trips led his family to scenic locations and back to his beloved Bellevue, Washington.

Bill’s love for adventure extended to white-water rafting, with notable trips down Idaho’s Lochsa and Salmon Rivers, and Utah’s Green River. When he was approaching 70 he took up motorcycling, despite some balance issues leading to occasional mishaps. His determination and resilience were unwavering, always pushing the envelope and getting back on his feet.

In later years, Bill faced significant health challenges. After contracting COVID-19, doctors discovered lung cancer, which led to successful treatment with Keytruda. This afforded him precious extra time with his family, showcasing his strength and determination. Bill passed away on April 23, 2024, at Overlake Medical Center from congestive heart failure caused by severe aortic stenosis, surrounded by his family.

The Simmons family extends heartfelt thanks to Amir H Modarressi, MD and his dedicated staff at Kaiser Permanente Oncology, to Dr Ami Wilkerson, and the wonderful nurses with Kaiser’s Home Health Care Team, the Overlake Medical Center, and Redmond Care and Rehabilitation, as well as to Michelle and Arnold Ewert for their unwavering support and love.

Bill’s adventurous spirit, dedication to family, and zest for life will be dearly missed. His legacy lives on in the countless memories shared with those who loved him. He never lost his penchant for a comforting bowl of spaghetti with his delicious homemade sauce that he honed and perfected for a lifetime.


Memories by Lynn Simmons


To Bill and Lynn:

During the summer of 1964, I received a letter from the University of Washington Residence Hall Counsel.  In it they explained that they were going to be starting an experiment in Coed dorms. They were asking students (women) over the age of 21 if they would be interested in participating.  After a little thought, I decided it would probably fun, so I agreed.  We were to occupy the first floor of a 12-story building.  The remainder of the building was to be occupied by primarily underclassmen … mostly freshmen and sophomores.

The year went well, and I had a great roommate.  Made a number of friends, some of whom became lifelong friends.  One of those is Jerry Owen.  He and Bill had been friends since high school or earlier.  Well, I was preparing to check out of the dorm at the end of the year in June, and I bumped into Jerry in the lobby, and he had this good-lookin’ red-headed guy with him and he introduced us.  We chatted for a few minutes then went our separate ways.

I must have made an impression on him because back in Hawaii I started getting letters from him.  He was spending the summer in Alaska working on a salmon fishing boat – a purse-seiner.  The pay was really good, especially for a student.  Anyway, we wrote back and forth to each other all summer, and he ended up picking me up at the airport when I returned to Seattle for my last year at UW.

We spent a lot of time together in these few days before classes began at UW for me, and at Olympic JC in Bremerton for Bill.  For that quarter I would go over to Bremerton on weekends.  Bill was living with several guys in an awesome log cabin on the shore of Puget Sound.  One of the things I remember about that place was the keg parties the guys had.  In quieter times we would take long walks along the shore.

The next quarter Bill transferred to UW, and we rented 2 dumpy little studio apartments a mile from campus.  I was in my final quarter, and Bill still had 2 years ahead of him. One of the things he did was enroll in Air Force ROTC, at the end of which he would be a 2nd Lieutenant in the USAF. He wanted very badly to be a jet pilot.  As a step toward that goal, he worked weekend and during the summer to get his Private Pilot’s License.

Whenever we were able, we’d take a Cessna-150 up and fly around Puget Sound.  Bill really loved flying.

So, I graduated in March, 1966 and after a couple of months I started working as a graphic illustrator at Boeing’s Aerospace Division in Seattle.  Now that we had a steady income, albeit small, we were able to move into a bigger apartment, closer to campus and shopping – and friends.  We got engaged that summer.  Bill was working on construction jobs all summer.  In the fall, it was back to classes for Bill, now majoring in Soviet Regional Studies.  Also in the fall, I was transferred to Boeing’s Airplane Division to be an illustrator there.  It was an exciting time, as the first “Jumbo Jet” – the 747 – was in its final design stages, and our unit was a part of many a presentation, also for the 737.  I worked there for the next 2 years, until after Bill’s graduation from UW, then his Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Air Force at Fairchild AFB in Spokane.   Oh, and we got married in Volcano, Hawaii in December, 1966.  Our honeymoon was spent on the (then, very rural) South Kohala Coast of the Big Island.  Our only splurge was renting a dark green ‘66 Ford Mustang.

Fall of 1968 Bill got his assignment for Undergraduate Pilot Training…in Laredo, Texas.  Neither of us was thrilled, we made our way there in a 1956 Buick, given to us by Bill’s stepmother, Anne.  Our route was to take us across Idaho, Montano, and Northern Wyoming, then rest in Rapid City, South Dakota to visit my sister Susie and her husband Jerry and their 2 kids.  The car DIED suddenly in Spearfish, SD.  The Coil was shot.  We were stuck there overnight because there were no parts, and the mechanic had to get parts from Rapid City.

After a really fun visit, we headed South, thru Denver and on South.  We car camped, toured Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, and took 2 days to drive across Texas to Laredo.  We had to camp in a motel for a week before we could move into what would be our home for just over a year.  We occupied the upstairs of a house on a ranch a couple miles east of the base, It was a large studio.  I was really glad it was upstairs because there were all sorts of creepy crawlies downstairs, like Tarantulas and snakes and scorpions; thank the good Lord none of them ever came upstairs.  Our neighbor’s downstairs weren’t quite so lucky.  But not all the wildlife was menacing:  I was awakened one night by a commotion outside on top of the window AC unit.  I tiptoed across the room and peeked through the Venetian blinds to see a pair of Great Horned Owls looking back at me.  WOW.

Texas is well known for its storms, and there was a Doozy of a thunderstorm one night we were jarred awake by the sound of “rocks” being dumped on the roof: baseball sized hail!  Thank goodness our car was under cover.

Pilot training went well.  After the rigors of the week, we would often get out of town.  One of those weekends we went on a car-shopping trip to San Antonio.  We drove home in a 1968 Volvo P-1800 sports car (used).  Fun car, but had some problems, one of which manifested itself every time we took the car to the base and washed it. When we were finished, the car would go a couple hundred feet or so then choke and die.  Water in the carburetor.  But how the heck did it get there?!  That remained somewhat of a mystery until a mechanic made the discovery that the car had been in an accident that involved a hit on the left rear, which is where the fuel filler was.  Whoever repaired the vehicle did a lousy job sealing that area.  Once we figured out what the problem was, it was a matter of sealing off the inlet to the gas tank before washing the car.

So, November came, and Bill graduated from Undergraduate Pilot Training, leaving all the friends behind, not knowing when or if we would meet again…bittersweet.  We left Laredo, and drove for 19 hours to Boulder, Colorado to spend a couple days with my sister Trisha before embarking on the final leg of this trip which took us to Seattle.  There we visited with family, then left the car at the Volvo dealer in Seattle to have some work done.  We then got on a plane to Hawaii for the Holidays.  There was eruption on-going in Halema’uma’u Crater in Kilauea Caldera.  What a thrill for Bill…gave him a lifelong fascination with volcanoes.  One of Bill’s UW buddies, Jim Logg, joined us in Hawaii for a few days. Lots of hiking and beaching.

After New Years, it was back to Seattle to pick up our car.  We then embarked on a more difficult trip than a year ago:  winter driving across the northern US to Tennessee.  I recall numerous places with Black Ice, and being VERY relieved when we got to Sewart AFB, in Smyrna, Tennessee, for C-130 training.  Our “quarters” while we were there was a dorm room at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.  While we were there we went to the taping of the “Johnny Cash Show” at the original Grand Ole Opry – Ryman Auditorium on Nashville.  Our time in Tennessee was cut short:

Sewart AFB was closed, and the last 6 weeks of C-130 training would take place at Pope AFB, adjacent to Fert Bragg, NC. We lucked out getting a real house to live in.  While we were at Pope, there was a Total Solar Eclipse – a first for both of us.

By this time, Bill had his next assignment: Clark AB on Luzon Island in the Philippines.

He was to leave in April, 1970, and Dependents (me) were not allowed to accompany.  He would be flying C-130’s for 3 week In-Country tours in South Vietnam, then back to Clark AB for a couple weeks.  So when done at Pope, we drove West, much of the journey in a blizzard. Stopped in Boulder, CO to again visit Trisha at CU.  There was 3 Feet of snow on the ground, and the roads were treacherous, but Bill insisted on driving up to Glenrock, WY to see Jerry & Susie.  He borrowed Trisha’s VW Bug, and somehow survived the trip.  The rest of the trip was fairly smooth.  We went from Boulder to San Fransisco, with an overnight stop on Utah.  We stayed at the Presidio, which at that time was still a military reservation.  It was a beautiful place.  The buildings were all Spanish styled.

I was going home to Hawaii, so we had the car shipped there, then we flew over, left most of our belongings with my Folks, and flew to Kauai for a mini vacation.  We rented a camper from HoloHolo Campers, and leisurely cruised the beautiful island for a week.  We then returned to the Big Island, and Bill prepared to leave for the PI for what was to be a 16-month assignment. He was treated to more Volcanic activity with the eruption of Mauna Ulu.

While he was in the Far East, our only means of communicating was letter-writing and radio from the aircraft – through a local CB operator.  One funny exchange I remember involved going through a commercial airline pilot.  Bill wanted to send me a pair of combat boots, but I didn’t know what my (men’s) shoe size was.  The pilot who was assisting in our chat butt in and offered to come over and help me.  We all had a good laugh.

After he had been away for about 6 weeks, the Air Force had a change of heart regarding dependents, and I was to go to Clark in mid-August,  I had to hustle and get my Passport, and all the necessary immunizations, and we decided to ship the car over there, so that we could get body work done for much less money.

We had a brand-new house in a new subdivision, and per the requirement of the Air Force, we had a live-in House Girl, Aida. She was there all week, and could go home on the weekends.  I felt like a queen, as she did everything.  I admit that I was rather uneasy in the role of boss, but she was very nice.

Bill’s in-country assignments were very stressful, and for the most part he didn’t talk about them.  When we could we would “get out of town” and drove up to Baguio, where the US military had a mountain retreat.  Very relaxing for both of us.  We were in the PI during a very stressful time politically, and Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law shortly after the end of Bill’s assignment and our departure in December, 1971.  We spent the holidays in Hawaii, before our next assignment at Travis AFB in Fairfield, California.  Bill went ahead of me, as he needed to go to Oklahoma to learn C-141 aircraft.  When I got to California, one of our first “jobs” was house-hunting.  We decided to buy a brand-new house, not yet built; it was about a mile from where one of Bill’s best friends from Clark was living with his family.

We got moved in in June.  Bill really enjoyed flying the 141, and was away from home much less.  He worked on carpentry projects a lot, building first a fence around our lot, then a privacy fence in front of the house.  Big project was building a redwood deck off the back of the house.

In the fall, I learned that I was expecting, and we were both elated.  We had had 2 disappointments in the last 2 years, and I was afraid to do anything that might jeopardize this pregnancy.    But everything went smoothly until one day in March, when I noticed a dark mole on my right temple that I had not seen before.  I called the clinic for an appointment, and spent the afternoon at specialty clinics while the docs mulled over possible diagnoses.  A biopsy was done and I was assured that 99% it was nothing to worry about.  I waited for 3 agonizing weeks to learn that the mole was melanoma and that I needed to have surgery right away!  Baby due in 8 weeks, I was terrified.  Bill was on a trip when this happened.  My friend took me to the hospital, but I was sent home because I had a pretty bad cold.  I was so frightened by this whole thing that I couldn’t even make any arrangements for the care of our newborn baby while I was in the hospital having surgery and recovering, which was planned by the doctors to take place 5 days after the (early) delivery of our baby.

So, Bill, with the help of Sandy S., made those arrangements.  When it was determined that the baby was mature enough, my labor was induced.  Bill was a terrific labor coach, and 36 LONG hours later, the baby – a boy – was born.  He and I were in the hospital together for 5 days; then baby had to be discharged home.  That’s when Bill’s real work started.     Fortunately, all went well with my surgery and prognosis. But it turned out not to be Bills’s only challenge:  our female Siamese cat decided this was a good time to have her first “heat”, and Bill needed to find a mate for her.  In between all this, he would bring the baby (Michael) to me at the hospital so I could nurse him.  My birthday came, and my best present was to be dis-charged from the hospital.

Bill absolutely loved that little boy.  When he was a few months old he started back-packing him while he rode his bike around the neighborhood.  Then, in the fall he got a temporary assignment to a remote air station in Alaska.  He wouldn’t be home for Michael’s first Christmas.  My sister Susie and family were now living in Kennewick, WA, so rather than staying in Fairfield for the holidays, Michael and I took a train from Sacramento to Portland, and were met by Susie, Jerry and kids.  We had a great time, but I really felt badly for Bill, up in that remote area without family.

His temporary assignment ended, and he returned to flying.  We went to Hawaii with Jerry and Joan Owen when Michael was 10 months old, and all stayed with my folks.  While we were there Michael said his first word “hot” as he cruised up to the Franklin stove in his walker, and he finally decided to crawl.

Bill spent a lot of time with his son, and the two of them would ride the bike a couple blocks to the high school track so Bill could jog.  When Michael got a little older, he would do some running himself.

But while his relationship with his son was thriving, things between Bill and me were not as good as they had once been.  And in November of 1976 he said we were done…he’d met someone else.  I was devastated, cried for 3 weeks.  Thanks to my friend Pat, I was able to get myself together, and decided to go to nursing school…I had been really impressed with my nurses when I was in the hospital.  Because my support system at home was much better, I made the difficult decision to return to Hawaii with Michael.  I applied for and. was accepted into Nursing School at UH HILO/Hawaii Community College and graduated in May, 1979 as a RN.  Without the help of my family, it would have been nearly impossible for me to accomplish.

Bill wrote frequently, and sent audio tapes to Michael, who missed his Daddy terribly.

Summers were spent with Dad, as well as alternate Christmas and New Year’s.



3 Responses to “William Guyton Simmons”

  • john & Nancy Ewert says:

    He did it all.

  • Pasterz Family says:

    Such a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to a life well lived. Our deepest condolences to all – our love and prayers are with you always.

  • ART HYLAND says:

    Bill and I met in 8th grade at Highland jr High. We lived across the street from each other in Lake Hills, Bellevue, and consequently spent a lot of time together in the Junior and High School period. When I first saw Bill in 1958 I thought he was in high school. Bill looked at least 5 years older than he was, and this continued until about age 35 or so, whereupon he then started looking younger. Anyway, back in school Bill not only looked older but he thought older as well, enveloping his time and thoughts about subjects well ahead of the rest of us. I benefited from this process as I learned about economics, the federal debt and deficit, political figures and other ideas few adults followed much less high school age kids. It was part of Bill’s becoming the true patriot he was. This routine was to stay with him as Bill’s curiosity seemed limitless, and his penchant for detail legendary. It definitely made me a more complete observer of what was happening in the world outside our immediate geography.

    We spent hours devouring skin diving magazines in our effort to wish to explore Puget Sound waters. Cutting and selling firewood (along with developing a descriptive vocabulary of four letter words) allowed us to purchase wetsuits and the associated gear to snorkel the Sound, and we did it often. Suits in those days were not rip resistant so we used powder to get into them, but needed each other to peel the super tight suits off, which process was the most strenuous of any given session. I got Bill onto the Jean D purse seiner fish boat for two salmon seasons in Alaska starting in the summer of ’64. It was an adventure we both cherished, often reminding each other of the crazy things we encountered. We walked into a sports store in Ketchikan and walked out loaded with pistols and pistol holders, and boxes of ammo. We still own those totally unregistered guns. We decided cigars were one of our chosen requirements on the boat (We bought them in cool cigar boxes for a summer’s inventory) and would occasionally fog the boat with smoke when we were ashore and not actually fishing.

    Bill liked Volvos, and high fidelity stereo, as did I of course, in fact, so many experiences and subjects became identical that as I look back on Bill’s influence there wasn’t much that I now do or did that wasn’t something of interest in some way to Bill. No matter how long the time between communications, we would pick up as if it had only been a few days. Which was part of the great friendship we enjoyed.

    It’s definitely not the same, knowing I can’t call Bill and become immersed in a subject unknown beforehand. But I always think of him as I encounter something interesting, reminding me of the great times spent with Bill.

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