Sunday, March 19, 2006


"The SHS class of '57 has lost their beloved class president, Ernest Simpson. In my heart are the fond and loving memories we shared in high school. He believed a smile cured all problems; he loved life to its fullest; his laughter was contagious and, for knowing him all of these years, I have grown wiser. He taught me that friendships are the jewels in my crown and to save them all. I have lost a very dear friend and he will be missed, but he will forever be left in my crown." Elois Bleidt Pelton, Class member of '57

For those too early or too late to go to school with Ernie, let me give you a glimpse of the kind of guy he was. Karen and I were going to drive up to Jonesboro on February 18 to see Shelia and Ernie. Here’s the note he sent with a Wal-Mart Gift Card, the last note I was to get from my/our friend.

In a way, Ernie’s story isn’t over. You see … well, let’s do it in the time-honored fashion –

ONCE UPON A TIME, there were three young men named

Larry Maness

Ernest Simpson

Frank Thompson

A sociologist would not have found a lot in common between the three of them. Larry’s dad owned a small diner at the corner of Pleasure and Main Streets, where he sold justly-famous foot-long hot dogs. Frank’s dad was a successful businessman/business owner, and an official of his church. Ernie’s dad worked at the shoe factory as a foreman; the job didn’t pay much.

They met in the first grade and, for the next twelve years, they became (as Ernie described it) “buds.”

Their similarities became more than their differences. All three good students. All three excellent musicians. Larry the Drum Major, Ernie and Frank in All-State Band. Upon graduation, all three went off to college to major in music, and all three became not just good band directors, but OUTSTANDING high school band directors.

Sadly, as happens entirely too often in this world, all three finally left music, because today’s educational system will not pay enough to keep teachers of this caliber. Larry went into school administration, Ernie went to work for Hytrol Conveyors and became an outstanding national dealer instructor, Frank went into banking.

In the late seventies, Larry was in Iowa on a hunting trip, when he had an accident that left him dead in less than an hour. Ernie was diagnosed with prostate cancer early in 2004 and was buried earlier this month.

The GOOD news out of all this is Frank is still with us, and better than ever:

Frank and his wife, Sandy, are living back in Searcy.

So, the three Musicteers live on – in our hearts and, with Frank, in our back yard, I’m happy to report.

Tell us YOUR stories, won’t you, so we can share them?


Blogger Steven Maness said...

It is with great sadness that my family learns of Ernie's passing.
His friendship with my father was a blessing to our lives. Sue, my two brothers & I were able to spend a morning with Earnest and his wife during a reunion in Searcy last year and I received a copy of his writings regarding his school days with my Dad. It was an emotional read which I have shared with Larry's grandchildren and will share with his great-granddaughter in time, as she is only 2 years old now. The music lives on in Larry and Earnie's legacies. My father was my first band director and I played trumpet.
He stated that this was due to my rather large lips but I do believe it was in homage to his dear buddy, Earnest. Larry's 5 grandchildren from me play instruments ranging from cello to clarinets to trumpet to electric guitars and have vocal talents as well. In fact the twin boys are in a band, The Doxies, which has just recorded their 4th CD of original music. I will make sure that the friendship Ernie and Larry forged will be remembered by my family for generations to come. Thanks for the memories Ernie.

12:09 PM  
Anonymous ELVIS / LVIS said...

Hoping all is well! Such Great Books! "Thank-you very much"..LVIS

6:41 AM  

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