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Mary Ellen Simpkins, 78

ORRVILLE — Mary Ellen Simpkins, age 78, of Orrville, died Tuesday, October 11, 2022, at the Wayne County Care Center in Wooster, following a period of declining health.
Mary Ellen was born on May 16, 1944, in Massillon, to the late Andrew and A. Iola (Sowash) Siegenthaler. She graduated from Orrville High School in 1962, then matriculated at Kent State University, receiving her Bachelor of Science in Education in 1966.
Mary Ellen was raised in the Siegenthaler farmhouse south of Orrville and spent her formative years working the farm with her family. When Mary Ellen came of age, she followed in her mother’s footsteps, pursuing higher education and a professional career.  Mary Ellen earned her degree in education and began her life’s work as an educator, teaching third grade at Oak Street School in the Orrville Public Schools for 32 years before her retirement in 1998. She married the late Jerry Simpkins on June 26, 1970, in North Canton. She and Jerry then resided at “Pine Lane”, the home they built together – and by hand – on the south end of the Simpkins family farm on Kansas Road.
Mary Ellen impacted the lives of hundreds of school children and their families through the course of her teaching career. She received the Martha Holden Jennings Scholar Award for Excellence in Education for the 1969-1970 school year. She received the award in her fourth year of teaching, which was an unprecedented honor for a new teacher. She was the first teacher at Oak Street School to receive this award. Many of the children who had her for third grade report in adulthood that she was the favorite teacher of their school career.  She not only provided a solid foundation of academic instruction, but also deep and compassionate social-emotional support.  She and Jerry often became like second parents to kids who needed family stability, and several of her students still call her “mom.”
Mary Ellen and Jerry took full advantage of summer and school breaks and had a lifelong passion for travel, camping, and exploration. Mary Ellen traveled to, road-tripped around, and explored all 50 states and over 28 countries with her husband, her son, and in later years, her daughter-in-law and grandchildren. After retiring from teaching, Mary Ellen accompanied Jerry as he continued to work part-time as a freelance truck driver for MIRK, Inc., further expanding their opportunity to travel and explore. In retirement, they enjoyed wintering in central Florida, summering at Pine Lane, and visiting their grandkids in Colorado. Mary Ellen and Jerry were lifelong partners in everything they did, but became truly inseparable such that it became rare to ever see one without the other.
Mary Ellen was a member of the Orrville Christian Church and the Florida Flywheelers Antique Engine Club where she served as a volunteer. She also enjoyed playing cards and games, listening to live music, and attending the Wayne County Fair. When she moved into the Orrvilla Retirement Community at Maple Terrace in 2019, she was known as a pillar of the community’s social life, organizing the Euchre Club, and serving as one of Maple Terrace’s resident ambassadors. Mary Ellen lived a life of love, beauty, delight, service to others, and adventure. Most of all, she loved her family, especially her grandchildren.
Mary Ellen is survived by her son, Travis Lee (Amy Lynn) Simpkins of Littleton, CO; three grandchildren: Andrew Lee, Clara Joy, and Nathaniel Travis Simpkins; and a brother, John Alvin Siegenthaler. Her husband, Jerry, preceded her in death on July 15, 2019.
Friends may call on Thursday, October 20, 2022, at Auble Funeral Home, 512 East Oak Street, Orrville, from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm or on Friday, October 21, 2022 from 10:00 am to 11:00 am, at Orrville Christian Church, 925 North Elm Street, Orrville.
Services will be held at 11:00 am on Friday, at the church, with Pastor Tom Ledford officiating. Burial will take place at the Crown Hill Cemetery in Orrville.
Memorials may be made to OrrVilla Retirement Community, 333 E. Sassafras St, Orrville, Ohio 44667 (https://www.orrvilla.org/) or to Orrville Christian Church, 925 North Elm Street, Orrville, OH 44667 (https://www.orrville.church/).

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