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Samuel Simmonds

Revered elder, minister and community leader, Samuel Simmonds, 73, died May 26, 1996 in Barrow. 

He was a towering figure with a shock of white hair, thick black, expressive eyebrows and a smile like a ray of sunshine in December. 

Simmonds spent his life caring spiritually for others, leading by example with his moral approach to life. 

Born in Barrow, Simmonds took up reindeer herding as a teenager in Tigaluk, near what is now the village of Atqasuk.  It is said that he used to ride around on a reindeer, traveling like Santa Claus. 

At age 42, Simmonds became a lay preacher for the Urqiagvik Presbyterian Church in Barrow in 1954.  Upon his ordination in 1961, he was named associate pastor at that church, and in 1968 he became its pastor. 

Simmonds traveled throughout the state to spread God's word, and served as pastor at Olgonik Presbyterian Church in Wainwright for 16 years.  Simmonds also wrote several hymns, one of which, "Oh How Joyful," was sung at his funeral. 

Simmonds was honorably retired from the Presbytery of Yukon in 1988. 

He became a master ivory carver, crafting realistic figures that depicted the subsistence life of his Inupiat people.  Most of his carvings are held in private collections.  He once said, "The reason I do these human figures is I try to preserve the things I have seen as a boy." 

The city of Barrow declared April 10, 1996, "Samuel Simmonds Day," and on April 11, Urqiagvik Presbyterians celebrated the 35th anniversary of his ordination. 

Simmonds married twice and raised 12 children.  "I don't know how I raised all of those kids, but it was fun."  Simmonds once said.  "No regrets." 

The Rev. William Findlay said at Simmonds' funeral, "He taught by example how to live a holy life."  Quoting from the Bible, the book of Matthew, Findlay observed, "Well done, though good and faithful servant." 

Source: The Arctic Sounder




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