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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (S)
Jeanette Simpson

Biographical Sketch of Jeanette Simpson

Jeanette SimpsonIt was 1:15 a.m. when I made my appearance in this world during the summer of 1947. My mother had previously had a stillborn child so my birth had been anxiously awaited. I was the first grandchild for my mother’s parents, the first female grandchild for my father’s parents. Recently a woman from my church told me that, my parents being just a year or two older than the others in their Sunday School class, I was the first baby belonging to anyone in that class so they all spoiled me. My mother says I smiled all the time, even woke up smiling, but who wouldn’t if they had that much love surrounding them?

I was named for Jeanette MacDonald, singer and actress, who was often paired with Nelson Eddy in the movies. My mother loved both of them.

We first lived in town in a large two-story house. When I began to walk around and get into things, my father decided he needed to build a fence around the backyard. The fence was complete and he was attaching the gate when he turned around and saw me straddling the top of the fence. I had climbed up and over so I could go explore the world! We moved to the country!

Granddaughter LaurenI later had two brothers and there were only boys in the other houses on our little country road so I played sports. I was a real tomboy, however, my paternal grandmother had made sure I learned female skills beginning with learning to do embroidery work at the age of five. She told me when she was young, growing up in the Scottish community in Greene County, Indiana, that a year after a woman she knew had married, someone asked her husband how things were going. He said fine except she didn’t know how to do anything. That was such a disgrace to her family. Grandma didn’t want me to be a disgrace, so she started me on needlework and later taught me to bake and make quilts. My maternal grandmother made sure I knew how to make jams and jellies, and gave me an appreciation of decorating skills. She also taught me to drink tea. At Thanksgiving the year I was fourteen, my mother and her mother went to Texas to visit my uncle and his family. I cooked my first Thanksgiving meal that year with my other grandmother hoving but with my father telling her to stay out of the kitchen and let me do it. It turned out great!

My father’s family was very close. He had three brothers, no sisters, but my grandfather had three sisters who were married and each had one child. I remember being around my great-grandmother and my great aunts and uncles and distant cousins a great deal. We used to go to the woods in the spring as an extended family, taking our lunch with us for a picnic on the edge of a field. The men would then go morel mushroom hunting while the women talked and great-grandma, with her big apron pulled up to hold her treasures, searched for dock and dandelion greens. My other great-grandmother died when I was very young, but I remember her lying in a bed in Grandma and Grandpa’s dining room. Several years later, we all made a trip down to Greene County, Indiana, to the Carmichael cemetery where she was buried so we could set a stone on the grave.

Grandaughter MichelleGrandma and Grandpa grew watermelons and strawberries. Grandma would pay me 10 cents a quart to pick strawberries then she sold them at a table along the road for 25 cents a quart. I ate as many as I picked, warm and with sand on them! So good! The whole family gathered at Grandma and Grandpa’s for Memorial Day at the end of May when the strawberries were ripe. In the fall, Grandma baked apple pies from the apples on their trees, and Grandpa made cider in an old wooden cider press. They were very basic country people. Grandpa worked in the coal mine.

My maternal grandparents grew tomatoes which they sold along the road. Those were good too just off the vine and warm. They had a large garden and raised chickens; they had blackberries and raspberries and cherries too. They had oriental carpets, lovely china, and books. Grandma loved hollyhocks and taught me to make dolls from them using the buds as heads on the flower stems, so the dancing girls had many different colors of ball-gowns. Grandpa had graduated from engineering school and taught electrical shop at a local high school. He had a shop outside the house. My great aunt, Grandpa’s sister, lived with them. She also was a school teacher.

Maternal GrandparentsMy father was a purchasing agent for the coal mines in the area, first the Saxon mine which was a shaft mine, then the Viking mine which was a slope mine. Sometimes on Saturday morning he would take me to the mine and let me paint the various sized bits different colors, some red and some yellow. He had served in the U.S. Navy during World War II in Hawaii, San Francisco, the Philippines, then in Boston. He was a loving man, very conscientious and honest, smiled all the time. He was active at our church serving as an elder, and he often took me with him when he called on the shut-ins and hospital patients.

My parentsMy mother had graduated from college and had taught school before my birth. Her favorite subjects were math, English and music. She was qualified to teach all three but math was her favorite. She played the piano and worked in the nursery at church, worked with the junior church, and she and Dad were youth group sponsors. Whenever the doors were open, we were at church. I was surrounded by love and support from every angle.

Mom has always enjoyed reading and she read to my brothers and I a great deal and made sure we had books. We used to laugh because she would have us lie down on the bed for a nap and then read to us so we would go to sleep. She was the one who went to sleep while we giggled. But, she instilled in me a love of reading. Her mother also read a great deal, National Geographic being her favorite thing to read. She dreamed of visiting other places and passed that dream on to me.

I was a good student when I went to school always ranking near the top of the class. My favorite subjects were English and history. My dreams were about visiting Britain. I was determined that I would someday do so. We often went to the library where I read every book they had about traveling in Britain. I was sixteen before I discovered the joys of being a girl and began to be clothes and makeup conscious! After graduating from high school, I went to Indiana State University where I majored in Social Work. I thought I was going to change the world, but my heart wasn’t in my schooling at this time. I worked for a department store during my University days and modeled some of the clothes, being the first to wear a mini dress in Terre Haute, Indiana. Of course, they were only a few inches above the knees when they first came in style, not the micro minis that later appeared! I ended up leaving school to get married, never a smart thing to do, and later regretted that decision.

Family pageI was married at age twenty-one. A year later my husband and I moved to London, Ontario, Canada where he worked on the Canadian National Railway. A year after that our son was born then a year later we had a daughter. This completed our family. I made sure my children had books and were exposed to museums and art galleries from the time they could get anything at all from the experience. The first time I took them to an art gallery, I took them into the shop and told them to pick out a print for their rooms. My son chose a Picasso and my daughter chose a Rembrandt. They were ages five and four; their tastes still run along these lines to this day. We went to children’s theatre productions, to theatre in the park, to Toronto on the train for special exhibits of Mayan and Aztec art and for the King Tut exhibit which toured North America. We made excursions to a rebuilt Indian village, to a sugar camp to see maple syrup being made, to a pioneer village, to Ailsa Craig where there was a place you could find fossils, to Stratford for the Shakespeare Festival, and to the library where I found so many more books about Britain! We took a trip up to the Georgian Bay and took a ferry across then went into a copper mine. We went to Niagara Falls every spring when the gardens were so beautiful. We went to see the Queen and Prince Philip when they visited London. While in Canada, I attended my first Scottish games and went to the Military Tattoo at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. I loved the British flavor of Canada, and I met so many new emigrants from Scotland and England.

In 1981, we left Canada to return to the U.S. There was a great deal of stress in our family. We settled in Oklahoma then moved to Missouri for a little over a year then back to Oklahoma. We took a three-month trip all around the United States seeing many places we had always wanted to see, but there was no keeping this family together. My husband eventually left me with the two children to raise. They were then ages fourteen and fifteen. I hadn’t worked outside the home since my marriage seventeen years previously, but I managed to get the first job for which I applied, librarian for the newspaper in Norman, Oklahoma. In this position, I clipped and filed stories, typed in recipes for our recipe section that came out just before Christmas every year, and wrote the obituaries. My love for sports was soon noticed and before I knew it I was helping the sports department with box scores and working on football recruiting stories surrounding the University of Oklahoma.

Paternal GrandparentsWhen my children were about to enter the University, I knew I couldn’t get them through school on what I was earning at the newspaper. I often wondered how I would manage when one day I got a surprise phone call. It was from a development officer at the University. She said she had heard about me and wanted to know if I would come to work at the University as they needed me there. The job paid twice the money I was making. I told her I would think about it knowing I couldn’t afford not to take the job. I went there as an entry level secretary. In three months I was promoted to secretary to the director of development, and in another year I was promoted to office manager. My children graduated from the University; my daughter got married; and I thought I was ready to relax a bit and live my own life. I still had my dream of traveling to Britain to fulfill.

However, my parents had moved to Oklahoma when my father found out he was ill with a liver disease that was incurable. He knew they would need my help later. My vacation times were spent taking them to Branson or back to Indiana to visit family and friends. Dad’s liver disease stayed about the same, but he soon found out he had inoperable prostate cancer. Before long I was spending every evening at my parents’ home fixing meals, cleaning, and keeping them company. My mother’s health wasn’t good at all, we even suspected she had Alzheimer’s disease at that time. My lunch hours were spent running to the pharmacy for prescriptions for Dad or doing their grocery shopping. I only slept at my home. Then I began to have to take time off to take Dad for radiation treatments and doctor’s appointments. Sometimes he wanted to talk until 11 p.m. then I would go home and fall into bed then get up and go to work the next day. I will never regret the time I spent talking to him or taking care of things for my parents. I learned so much during that time, but it was hard.

When my father died I immediately had to give up my rental home and move in to take care of my mother. She was comfortable in her home with all of her familiar things around. I continued to work for a while then she began having serious health problems, breaking first a hip then a shoulder and doing things that made no sense. We found out she didn’t have Alzheimer’s, but she was having seizures. Eventually I left my job to care for her full time and have been doing that now for seven years.

However, in 1996 I was able to make a trip to Britain, taking a tour that took me to London then around England, into Wales, and through southern Scotland just to Glasgow and Edinburgh with a stop at Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford. My son went along and we took a boat ride on the Thames one night arriving at Big Ben just in time to hear him count out nine o’clock. We visited Stonehenge and Stratford, rode a boat across a canal in north Wales, went through the Lake District, toured Belvoir Castle, and Cambridge and back to London where we saw "Sunset Boulevard" starring Petula Clark. It was wonderful! In 1997, my cousin and I spent a week in just London visiting all the sites there.

That year my other cousin had done a lot of family research and had traced our family back to Scotland. Duncan Carmichael came to America in 1763 along with his wife and children. They settled in Virginia and North Carolina having a farm that straddled the two states. Duncan’s sons served in the Revolutionary War on the American side and were awarded land in an area of their choosing. They didn’t take the land but some of their children claimed it and came by wagon train to Greene and Monroe Counties in Indiana to settle in 1829. There is a Carmichael cemetery there where my ancestors are buried back to the first generation to be born in America.

Hoagy Carmichael, the actor and songwriter, comes from this same line.

paternal great-grandmothersThis discovery led my cousin and I to join Clan Carmichael and get active in the clan. My cousin is now the membership chairperson and I am the book editor and corresponding secretary. I have worked on a cookbook for the Clan and also a history/memory album which was presented to our Chief. Between us we have attended games at Stone Mountain, Georgia, Glasgow, Kentucky, Springfield, Illinois, Columbus, Indiana, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Long Beach, California. Last year our Chief Richard Carmichael of Carmichael held a Millennium Gathering on the Carmichael estate in Lanarkshire, Scotland. We knew we wanted to go but we also wanted to see more of Scotland. We chose to go two weeks early to take a tour all around the country (you can read about this tour under the travel section at Electric Scotland) then to go to the Gathering (a write up about this can be found under Clan Carmichael on the clan pages at Electric Scotland). My dream had come true!

I wrote these articles for Alastair and Electric Scotland then later, remember I am a reader, I discovered an old copy of Sir Walter Scott’s "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border" on the Barnes and Noble out-of-print site, my favorite place for books. I asked Alastair if he would like to have some of the ballads for the site. He said he would; so I began typing them into the computer. When I finished those, I offered to help him with other things. He then put me on staff and since then I have been reading and enjoying the various things I have been typing for the site. I have also contributed other articles and poems, a gift ideas section and some crafts and cooking items for the kids’ pages.

This past summer my mother and I moved back to Indiana near family and old friends. Both of my children have settled in Illinois so I am now close to them and my two grand-daughters. We have so many activities here that I have had to begin keeping an appointment book! If I should ever get bored, I have numerous hobbies to keep me busy – sewing, needlepoint, embroidery, counted cross stitch, quilting, furniture refinishing, home decorating, various crafts, reading, family history, photography, and giving teas, to name a few.

These are a few of my favorite things: a sunrise; the freshness of birdsong in the early morning; deep blue morning glories; roses; lilacs; peonies; lily-of-the-valley; sweet peas; violets; hydrangeas; wisteria; old quilts; cups of tea; beautiful teapots and cups and saucers; Christmas; other holidays; chocolate chip cookies; travel; sports (especially baseball); old family pictures and letters; soft music; Mozart; James Galway music; pipe bands; going to the theatre in London; my son, daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters; books; dew shimmering in the sun; blue and white china; watching the birds at the feeder and birdbath; redbud and dogwood trees; cooking and baking; teddy bears; the color blue; the Carmichael tartan (just my colors); bubble baths by candlelight; covered bridges; golden oak furniture; walking along a quiet beach in the moonlight with only the sound of the waves; cherubs; stained glass; Victorian lace and décor; cobalt blue glass; walks in the rain; the smell of rain; an isolated cabin in the woods with the sounds and scenes of nature all around; curling up in front of a fireplace; the sounds and smells and colors of spring; the sounds (crunching leaves) and smells (burning leaves) and colors of autumn; watching snow fall and line the branches; sunlight sparkling on ice covered branches; old Cary Grant movies; romantic poetry; Sir Galahad; ladybugs; museums; art galleries; the spiritual quality of old abbeys; porches with swings; butterflies; hummingbirds; bees; scented sheets; sunsets; silk; good friends; a loving and caring family; Canadian geese flying over honking loudly; letters and e-mails from friends; Scottish history; the Highlands; "Murder, She Wrote," David Suchet as Poirot; John Thaw as Morse; Jane Austen novels; and life in general.

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