June 5, 1938 – October 29, 2019
Joseph M. Simas passed away in the early morning hours of Tuesday, October 29, 2019 at the age of 81. He was born on June 5, 1938 to Joseph Silveira Simas and Mary Virginia Simas in Hanford, California and spent his entire life living and serving in this community. He attended Hanford High School, College of the Sequoias, and graduated from Fresno State with a degree in History.
Little “Joey” loved his early years living on his grandparents' ranch at 6th and Dover. His mother owned Mary's Beauty Shop in town and due to the war-era gas rations, she couldn't afford to drive back and forth to the ranch. So she stayed in town during the week leaving Joe in the care of his grandparents. He was the apple of his grandfather's eye. Joe's favorite responsibilities were to milk Bessie — the cow that provided milk to the household; and, his next favorite chore was to run a Kerr Jar filled with coffee and milk to his grandfather who was out working on the ranch. Grandpa would take a break, drink his coffee and talk to his young grandson (and sometimes share his coffee). Many lessons were learned during these “coffee breaks.” His grandfather taught Joe about his proud Portuguese heritage, hard work, how to treat people with respect … and how to enjoy life a little. It is here that he attended his first year of school at Excelsior Grammar School, a one-room schoolhouse.
Joe moved to town to live with his mom after his parents divorced. This is where his love for sports began. He spent many hours at Lacey Park playing baseball or pick up basketball games on the courts. He loved to run. Leaving Lacey Park he would run home to Normandie Street timing himself to try and beat his best time. Spending one-on-one time with his mom was a cherished activity. The two of them would go out to dinner at Peden's or Peter Pan's and each would talk about their day and sometimes they caught a movie at the Fox Theatre. His dad traveled as a cattle buyer and when he would come to town, he would erect a boxing ring in the garage and all the neighborhood boys would come to spar and then take a trip to Superior Dairy.
After graduating from Fresno State with a teaching credential, Joe's first job was with Hanford Elementary School District as a teacher at Woodrow Wilson, Jr. High School. He taught 10 years before taking a position at the District Office coordinating the district's court-mandated desegregation plan. Forty years later, Joe finished his career at HESD retiring as Superintendent. During his tenure three schools were built: Washington, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. Joe also oversaw the completion of plans for what was then called the “West Side School.” Eventually it was named in his honor, Joseph M. Simas Elementary. He also instituted the popular Spanish Dual Immersion Program. And believing in the importance of music education, he made it a priority to build up the band and music programs in the district which went on to become award winning programs.
Joe's bout with polio at age 15 had struck down his ability to run. His dream of becoming a professional baseball player had ended. But his passion would not be thwarted. He fulfilled his need for sport and competition by coaching. He worked for the Hanford Recreation Department coordinating their Adult Softball League on the south side of town and had a long relationship with the Longfield Center. He coached basketball and baseball at Woodrow Wilson Jr. High. For many years, he was the voice of the Bullpups announcing Hanford HIgh's football and baseball games. But his greatest honor was coaching Hanford's youth in Little League Baseball. He managed these baseball teams for 25 years and truly cherished the relationships that sprung from these days. When players saw him around town, they often thanked him for his time and mentorship. Joe truly considered it an honor and he always said he got more from those years than he gave.
After his retirement, he continued his love of baseball by traveling with his wife Liz, to see the New York Yankees — his favorite baseball team. His goal was to see the Yankees play in all 30 major league ballparks. They made it to 29. The only ballpark missed was in Cleveland. His knowledge of baseball trivia was encyclopedic.
If you ran into Joe in the street, you would be greeted with a big smile, a warm hello, and possibly a long conversation. He would ask you about your family and know every member by name. It always seemed that Joe knew everyone in town and never met a stranger.
Joe loved his family and his family loved him. He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Liz; three sons, Joseph of St. Petersburg, Russia, Jason of Los Osos, and Jeff of Fresno; sisters, Katherine Andes of Hanford, Janice Ghose (husband Sanjoy) of Pismo; brothers, Robert Seaman (wife, Gwen) of Lancaster, Greg Seaman of Hanford; grandchildren Jacob Simas of Hanford, Clio Simas of Paris, France, Sienna and Calista Simas of Lemoore, Penelope and Paige Simas of Los Osos; and, his nieces and nephews, Lauren Eck of Hanford (husband, Tony), William “Kitch” Andes of Durham, NC (wife, Sammantha), Peri Gillis of Sylmar, and Jordan Seaman of Southern California. He was preceded in death by his parents Joseph and Mary Simas and his stepfather Kitchener Seaman. He also leaves many other family members and friends who will sadly miss him, with a special thanks to Sara Reaves of Hanford,
Services will be held at St. Brigid's Catholic Church, 1001 N. Douty St., Hanford, CA. Rosary Monday, November 4th at 6:00 p.m. and a Mass of Christian burial on Tuesday, November 5th at noon. A coffee and cookies reception will immediately follow Mass in the church hall. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the St. Brigid Community Outreach Center (formerly, St. Vincent DePaul), 115 W. Fifth Street, Hanford, CA.