Thomas Joseph Simrell, 86, of Scranton, died of medical complications on Saturday night at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton. Until his very final moments, Thomas held the hand of the love of his life, Helen, and was surrounded by his loving family.
Tom was the proud son of the late Thomas and Mary Stahlheber Simrell of Scranton. He carried himself as a man of strength and character. In his youth, he was a football player at South Catholic High School. He would wake up every morning, rain or shine, and climb several flights of steps to ring the bell at Nativity Church at six in the morning, while most were still warm in bed.
Tom was a man who followed a higher order of moral principle, and believed deeply in God. For 20 years, every December, Tom, as well his brothers Frank, Joe, Jerry and Tom's dear late friend, John Giblin, would deliver huge pine trees to display in Nativity Church. Those huge trees warmed countless Christmases for the people of Nativity, and provided Scranton with just a little bit more light on dark winter nights.
Tom's most important commitment was pledged on Aug. 9 of 1952, when he married his high school sweetheart, and the love of his life, Helen Cavanaugh. Tom and Helen went on to raise nine beautiful children and build a home. Their first home, in fact, was built by the strength of Tom's back, and the skill of his own two hands. Tom and Helen cared for their nine children through everything, and went on to love many more grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who all admired the depth and substance of their marriage. Tom and Helen were just as madly in love on their 66 anniversary as they were on their first.
Tom was also committed to his country. After one year at the University of Scranton he left to serve as a United States Marine during the Korean War. Tom brought the same character and strength into uniform, and was a strong soldier. After leaving the service, he worked for the Chamberlain Ammunitions Plant, and then served as an engineer for 30 years on behalf of the Lackawanna Railroad as it changed ownership to Erie Lackawanna and Conrail Railroad. He was also acting chairman for over a year to one of the largest local union chapters of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in Northeast Pa.
Tom was the type of man who always took the time to smell the roses. He had an indescribable zest for life that sprung forth from the deep kindness and strength of his heart. Tom had the type of smile that could warm any room, and it often did. He was the proud member of several clubs, including the Nativity Social Club, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, San Cataldo Club, the St. Patrick's Parade Association, where he served proudly as 2010 Grand Marshall, St. Mary's Club and the Marine Corps League, where every St. Patrick's Day he would proudly bring in his beautiful family for ham, cabbage and extra bread (in typical Simrell style).
Tom's family would like to extend a special thanks to the doctors who helped care for him through his life: Dr. Edward Dzielak, Dr. Sean McCall, Dr. Elizabeth Scott, Dr. Kimberly Skelding, and all the doctors and nurses at Geisinger Community Medical Center's Intensive Care Unit for their care.
Tom was preceded in death by his two brothers, Frank Simrell, of Scranton and John Simrell, of Moosic.
Tom is also survived by nine children, Kathleen Simrell, Waverly; Colleen Payami and her husband, Madjid, Waverly; Julie Ratchford and her husband, Thomas, Kingston; Dr. Thomas Simrell and his fiancée, Tanya Mangiola, Greenfield Twp.; James Simrell and his wife, Kathleen, Clarks Summit; Ellen Volpe and her husband, Charles, Waverly; Amy Mifka and her husband, Ralph, Scranton; Erin Pinto and her husband, Joseph, Dunmore; Melissa Stevenson and her companion, Michael Munda, Montrose; 31 grandchildren, Bridget Roberts, Sarah Stevens, Jason, John, Matt, Abigail, Nathan and Isabelle Ratchford, Joshua Ceres, Domenick, Shamus, Kaddy, and Posie Simrell, Jennifer Wolff, John and Charles J. Volpe III, Chyla, Richard Michael, Cecilia, Brogan, Maclain, Caroline and Aileen Walsh, Benjamin and Jordan Adcroft, Emily and Thomas Pinto, Quinlan, Kailey, Lillie and Eamon Stevenson; 18 great-grandchildren, Emmaline and Amelia Roberts, Cullen and Makenna Ratchford, Halle, Samuel and Luke Stevens, Aiden Ratchford, Nathan and Ryder Ceres, Scarlett, Guinevere and Cordelia Wolff, Cadence, Liam, Atticus and Eloise Walsh, Satya Cranman; two sisters and two brothers, Mary Ann Williams and husband, William, Allentown; Ann Burke, Scranton; Joseph Simrell and wife, Joan Anne, and Gerald Simrell and wife, Cathy, all of Scranton. Also surviving are his two brothers' beloved widows, Patricia Simrell and Mary Anne Simrell; as well as many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Tom will be deeply missed. But his impact on his family's lives, his friend's lives, and above all, his wife Helen's life, is where his love forever will live on. Love conquers all, even death. But for now, we promise to smell the roses, to share his stories, share his strength and wait patiently until we see him again.
May the road rise to meet you,
may the wind be ever at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
-An Irish Blessing-
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by the Rev. Michael Bryant, pastor, at St. John Neumann Parish, 633 Orchard St., on Friday, Oct. 12 at 11 a.m. Friends may call Thursday, Oct. 11 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the church. Neil W. Regan Funeral Home Inc., 1900 Pittston Ave., is assisting the family with all arrangements. The family would like to thank the Regan family for their wonderful care and friendship over the years. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to St. Joseph's Center, 2010 Adams Ave., Scranton PA 18509; or the charitable organization of your choice.
To send online condolences, visit the funeral home website.