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Community gathers to celebrate life of former publisher, state legislator Remembering Sim Wilson III
EVERETT — “If you must do something, Karen, it must be a celebration of the good times.”
These were the words of Simeon Robert “Sim” Wilson III to his wife, Karen, about his memorial and on Feb. 22 Wilson’s family and friends gathered at the Everett Transit Station to celebrate the 81 years of Sim Wilson’s life, which included decades of editing and publishing The Marysville Globe and The Arlington Times, as well as serving in the Washington State House of Representatives.
Karen Wilson opened the ceremonies with Sim Wilson’s early years, in the Navy and in college, the latter of which saw him attend both Washington State University and the University of Washington.
“During football season, he was always very conflicted about which team to root for,” Karen Wilson said, to the laughter of attendees. “Except for the Apple Cup, which was always WSU.”
Karen described Sim as a veritable Renaissance man, with a diversity of professional and personal pursuits.
“Pottery gave him a way to exercise his creative nature,” Karen said. “The Navy showed him a big world out there to explore, and it didn’t hurt that, as a young man, he was actually guarding the French Riviera during the time the bikini was invented.” After another bout of laughter died down, she continued. “The newspaper allowed him to really understand his parents, and the challenges they faced in earning a living. The legislature provided him an opportunity to change lives and give back to the community he loved.”
Karen recalled how, even in retirement, Sim kept active by studying interests as diverse as archeology, Spanish language and cooking, the latter of which saw him “mastering” the smoker and the barbecue.
“I was blessed that every morning he woke me up with a kiss and a cup of coffee,” said Karen, who also remembered her evenings with Sim concluding with quiet conversation about the day’s events.
“He didn’t give up friends easily and his friends wanted to stay in contact with him,” she added. “He even managed to stay friends with both of his ex-wives.” Karen Wilson, nee Schmidt, was Sim Wilson’s third wife, after Jacqueline Halbert and Betty Rust.
While Karen appreciated Sim’s mind, she acknowledged that “it didn’t hurt that he was also a cutie.” She smiled as she noted how “his blue eyes would twinkle, and you knew he was up to something,” whether he was preparing to hang a spoon on his nose in a restaurant, or to startle Karen by sneaking up on her wearing a Turkish glass eye like a monocle.
“He would ask me sometimes, ‘Why do you love me so much?’” Karen said. “I would say, ‘Oh, you mean, beyond your intelligence, your good looks, your sense of humor, your gentle nature and your generous heart? I guess it’s because you let me be me.’”
When Karen admitted that, “If you knew me, you’d know this is not an easy task,” one attendee said, “Amen,” drawing another chorus of laughter from the attendees, including Karen herself.
Karen praised Sim for his self-assurance, as well as his encouragement of her.
“He could bring my feet back down to the ground, when I needed it,” Karen said. “But he really was the wind beneath my wings.”
As a result of their extensive travels together, Karen now has pleasant memories of her time with Sim “nearly everywhere I go in the world.”
Michael Wilson was Betty Rust’s son, who was adopted by Sim Wilson after Sim and Betty married in 1959. Michael delivered a tearful farewell to his father, complete with a guitar performance of a song he’d written in memory of Sim’s passing. Michael noted that Sim had provided the $5 that his adopted son used to buy his first guitar, but added that Sim “never really understood” Michael trying to pursue music as a career.
“It’d be like him making money as a potter,” Michael said, sharing laughter with the attendees. “It wasn’t in the cards for him to throw pots on a street corner. He was practical to the end.”
While Michael acknowledged that he and Sim had “a few rough years, where Dad and I were sideways of each other,” during Michael’s young adult years, he also expressed pride about the strong bond they’d developed in the many years that followed.
“Like a lot of regrets, it’s fairly useless after the fact,” Michael said. “You have to move forward, and try and do things that get your true feelings out there.”
Michael and his wife Linda had spoken earlier in private about their experiences with Sim, and Michael reported that Linda had felt accepted by her father-in-law when he was able to open up with her and discuss his regrets with her.
“It doesn’t always work out the first time,” Michael said. “Sometimes, it takes a couple of times to get it right.”
Michael admitted that he was initially ambivalent when Sim married Karen, but emphasized how much he’s come to care for her since.
“As with a lot of kids, I didn’t know how to feel about it,” Michael said. “I got to know Karen over time, though, and watched her and my dad together. They were really good friends, and that ended up making me pretty darned happy.” To Karen, Michael said, “I’m so thankful that you met my dad, and married my dad, and made him happy all these years.”
Among Michael’s most vivid memories of Sim were of “watching Grandma and Grandpa and Dad” working at The Marysville Globe.
“I can remember the smells,” Michael said. “The scents come back to you, of Grandpa with his cigar. It smelled like smoke and ink,” he laughed.
Michael recalled late Wednesday nights spent putting together the paper, “and in those days, you did it piece by piece, and made plates out of aluminum.” As a youngster, Michael spotted a sign in the office that referenced “that little patch of blue that Globe employees call the sky,” and when he asked Sim about it, Sim explained that the employees would so often come in early in the mornings, and stay late into the evenings, that it would sometimes seem to them that all they knew of the sky was a “little patch of blue.”
“Dad had a terrific work ethic,” Michael said. “His life was an amazing gift.”