Howard Franklin Simmons — Austin

Howard Franklin Simmons, 93, of Austin, died peacefully in his sleep early Friday morning, July 12, 2013, at Golden Living West Nursing Home in Rochester.

Howard's health decline began after fracturing his back in his Austin Chauncy apartment shortly after a family celebration of his 93rd birthday on Sept. 5, 2012. After home health care and some time in the Mayo Clinic -- Austin Hospital, he moved to the Golden Living nursing home on Oct. 21, 2012, to be closer to his family for the duration of his life. He sustained a broken hip in April of this year, and his health rapidly declined after that.

Prior to these 10 months of decline and since his beloved wife, Mary, had died in December 2004, Howard had led an active life filled with visits with family and friends, church attendance, driving locally, doing his own housekeeping, playing cards, reading history books, and following the Minnesota Twins on TV .

Howard was born Sept. 5, 1919, at Bancroft (Kossuth County), Iowa, to Marcus and Helen (Meyer) Simmons. He attended St. John's Catholic School and graduated from Bancroft Public High School in 1936 in a class of 13 students. He played shortstop on the school's baseball team, and this remained a favorite sport across his lifetime. For five years, he worked locally for Welp's Chicken Hatchery, monitoring operations during the night shift and driving a truck to the markets in Chicago where the chickens were sold.

He always said that "it was the biggest good decision of his life to have come to Austin" because of every personal and family opportunity which followed. He moved to Austin with his friend Jim Wempe in 1941 to begin working at the Geo A. Hormel company, primarily in the pork trim department. He retired from Hormel in 1981, having worked there for 40 years. He served in World War II in the south Pacific in the Army's 706th tank battalion in Siapan, Okinowa, and the Phillipines. His service in memorialized with a brick in the Veteran's Memorial in downtown Austin.

Before Howard left for overseas in WW II, he married Mary Louise Gardner on June 16, 1944, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Charles City, Iowa. Mary served as the dietitian at St. Olaf Hospital in Austin while he was overseas. When he returned, they built their home on 1st Avenue Northwest, became active members of St. Augustine Parish, and had three children. These happy years were filled with scouting activities, family auto travel and camping, gardening, home remodeling, playing cards, geneology investigations, many trips to their wooded property at Mille Lac Lake, and socializing with friends.

Howard and Mary's three children survive: Joanne (Annie) of Minnetonka Minn., William (Bill) of Rochester, and Beverly of Concord, Mass. In addition, he is survived by daughter-in-law Jan (Bill) of Rochester, son-in-law Steve (Bev) of Concord, Mass., and grandchildren Jalil Saab of Minnetonka, Minn. and Erin Simmons (Toby) Taylor and Kelsey Simmons (Jon) Hawley of Rochester. Four great-grandchildren survive: Ella (nearly 6), Lilli (nearly 2), and newborn identical twin girls who arrived on July 9, Yonina Elaine (Nina) and Yesima Leigh (Yesi), all of Rochester.

He was proceeded in death by both of his parents, his brother Paul, his sisters Loretta and Marge, and his in-laws Walter and Clara Gardner, and his brother-in-law, Joseph Gardner.

A funeral Mass with be celebrated for Howard at 11 am on Wednesday, July 17, at St. Augustine's Catholic Church, with the Rev. Jim Steffes officiating. There will be a visitation from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16, with a prayer service at 7 p.m. at Mayer Funeral Home. There will also be a visitation one hour before the service at the church on Wednesday. Interment will be in Calvary Cemetery next to his wife, Mary. A luncheon at the church for family and friends will follow at 1 p.m. on Wednesday in the St. Augustine Church basement.

Condolences may be left for the family at