FAREWELL: John Simpson was the brains behind a huge equine sculpture being built at Queen's Park.
FAREWELL: John Simpson was the brains behind a huge equine sculpture being built at Queen's Park. Elyse Wurm

Tributes flow as Warwick loses passionate community man

GIVING up was never an option for John Simpson, who will be remembered as an ideas man, a kind-hearted community member, passionate teacher and beloved husband, father and grandfather.

John was born on April 23 in Melbourne, in a year that will remain a mystery as he never regarded age as important.

He passed away on Tuesday after a long health battle.

John may have grown up in Victoria but Warwick is the place he has called home since 1966.

It was where he met his beloved wife Mavis, whom he always greeted with a "Hello Sunshine” when talking on the phone.

The pair met at a party for Warwick teachers in 1979, John was teaching at Scots PGC College while Mavis was at Warwick State High School.

He stole his first kiss that night but on December 22, 1980, Mavis became the one who would be by his side forever after they married in a small ceremony attended by two friends in Las Vegas.

John was a father to three children, Tanya, Fiona and Matthew, whom Mavis saw as a "beautiful package”.

In just more than 38 years of marriage, John never stopped sweeping her off her feet.

When they were both working at Scots PGC College, they ate lunch together every day and, after retirement, went on picnics and coffee dates.

"He was the one person who loved me with every fibre of his being, he'd tell me how much he loved me,” Mavis said.

Family members weren't the only ones to experience his loving soul, as John also touched the lives of students in his 33 years as a respected arts teacher at Scots PGC College.

He instigated the establishment of the arts department at the school while also teaching fine arts, manual arts and graphic design.

John Simpson was a respected teacher at Scots PGC College for 33 years.
John Simpson was a respected teacher at Scots PGC College for 33 years. Jonno Colfs

His son, Matthew, said a sign hung in his classroom which read "Students are not vases to be filled but fires to be lit”.

"That was the epitome of him as a teacher,” Matthew said.

"He enabled everyone to be an individual in their work.”

Mavis remembers John pulling art out of people who didn't believe they had it in them.

Daughter Fiona said John was not only a teacher in his profession but also in his life.

In recent times he enjoyed sharing knowledge with his four grandchildren - Bethany, Evie, Brianna and Tom.

But he also taught art to patrons at Blue Care and was involved in the community with the Lions Club, Freemasons and was involved in the push to create an art gallery in Warwick.

Staying active was also a priority for John. As an avid AFL fan, he trained with the Essendon Football Club before moving to Warwick but then took up cricket and golf, ran a marathon at 60, then eventually started bowls.

John Simpson (centre) with Condamine Steel and Rural owner Peel Tribe and Warwick Credit Union CEO Lewis von Stieglitz with a piece of the equine artwork.
John Simpson (centre) with Condamine Steel and Rural owner Peel Tribe and Warwick Credit Union CEO Lewis von Stieglitz with a piece of the equine artwork. Elyse Wurm

Art was a passion he pursued throughout his life and, in 2005, he devised a plan to use his skill to create a gift for Warwick.

John created plans for a tall equine sculpture set to be placed in Queens Park, giving drivers a reason to stop in the town he called home.

He had spent the past 14 years tirelessly campaigning, fundraising and advocating for its creation. Despite grant applications being knocked back and going out on foot to gather donations, he never gave up on the dream.

Last year work finally started on the creation that will stand 15m tall above Warwick.

"That's his nature, not to give up. You start something and see it through, you don't abandon it,” Mavis said.

While John will not have the joy of seeing the work completed, his family is determined to see the vision through with the help of avid supporters, including Peel Tribe at Condamine Steel and Rural.

Rather than sending flowers, his family ask well-wishers to donate to Reflections of the Horse through Warwick Credit Union BSB 817 001 and account 4003 90648.

Mavis said she wasn't sure when the work would be completed but they were working to bring the vision to life.

"He doesn't want it to be called his legacy but it's his gift,” she said.

"He was a kind, loving, generous person who never held a grudge and could accept everybody for who they were.”

A private service will be held for John but community members are invited to attend a celebration of John's life at Warwick Bowls Club on Wednesday from 3.30pm.



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