By Jim Palmer
Editing and publishing the Senior Perspective can be a hard job at times with some longer hours and no shortage of deadlines. But when I think about my time with this newspaper, my thoughts don’t really dwell on those difficult times. Instead, I think of the smiling faces, the happy calls, the nice letters and the day-brightening emails that we receive from our readers every month. These kind notes and gestures really make this job enjoyable and make all those long hours worth it.
After the May edition newspapers were printed, I received an email that really caught my eye... and really gave everyone here at the office an extra hop in their step.
The email was from Catherine Simondet of Waite Park. This is what it said...
“I was just reading the recent edition of Senior Perspective and checking out the Poet’s Corner. I was so surprised to see What a Gal, written by Dave Simondet.”
She went on to say...
“Many emotions. I have not read that poem before and was overwhelmed to see it, especially as Mother’s Day is just around the corner. You see, Dave passed away in May last year and he was my husband. It was like a message from him!!!! Thank you for running the poem at this time! It means a lot to me.”
Wow! This was definitely a bad news/good news kind of email. We were sorry to hear of Dave’s passing but so happy to hear the rest of her note.
Dave was a regular contributor of poems in the Senior Perspective and had been for years. His poems could often be found in the Lindbergh edition.
The poem What a Gal was received at the Senior Perspective just as the May 2020 edition was printing... right around May 25th. We learned from this note from his wife that he passed away on May 26, 2020. There is a decent chance this poem was Dave’s last.
We did not know that Dave had passed away until we received the email. Since the May edition was already on the way to the press, we saved his poem for an entire year so it could be in the May 2021 edition, along with any other Mother’s Day poems.
While that poem and his wife’s response were really impactful and fun to read, the real impact came from Dave’s life. Catherine gave me more on this unique man and the contributions he made during his 84 years on earth.
Dave Simondet served in the Army for a couple of years, worked on the railroad for a few years and then found his calling with a career in law enforcement. He served as an officer in Golden Valley Police Department (1961-1968) and the Plymouth Police Department (1968-1976) before serving as the Chief of Police for the Bemidji Police Department (1976-1980).
Dave then moved into the private sector, working for Control Data as a security manager until 1998, when he retired.
Dave brought outreach and programming from the Whitney Senior Center in St. Cloud to various assisted living and nursing homes in the area. He was the program coordinator of the Whitney With Out Walls (WWOW) Program for years.
He was a lifelong learner, earning three Associate Degrees, one Bachelor Degree and two Master’s Degrees.
He liked thrill trips like white water rafting, riding on a powered parachute and ski diving (in his 70s).
Dave liked to paint, and he liked poetry. When his kidneys started to fall and he began to receive dialysis (last 6 years of his life), he found a way to impact others through both hobbies.
Dave and his wife have painted for more than 40 years. Over the years in dialysis, he donated paintings to every dialysis center he was treated at -- St. Cloud, Big Lake, Staples and the University of Minnesota.
As for poetry... Dave’s nephrologist (Dr. Thomas Leither) had the idea to team up medical students from St. John’s and St. Ben’s with dialysis patients and write poetry together. The doctor thought that this exercise would teach the medical students to listen to their patients.
“Dave thought that it was a brilliant idea as one of his hospital trips of 3-4 weeks was caused basically because the admitting doctor wasn’t listening to him,” said Catherine. “Dave so enjoyed meeting with each student. His first medical student was Zach Wright, and they clicked immediately. Together they even published a book on their poems, called Thoughts.” The 170-page book is filled with poems written by Dave and Zach, together and individually.
Catherine said that Zach’s mother was so excited about this poetry project that she just had to meet Dave.
“She drove up to St. Cloud from Minneapolis and visited him in dialysis,” said Catherine.
Dave was the kind of person who would have made a great front-page article in the Senior Perspective. His story is one of giving back and living life to its fullest.
I’m glad Dave was able to get that poem in the mail last May before he passed and I’m happy that we able to be a part of Dave’s Mother’s Day gift to his wife... a year later.
Thank you to Catherine for your email and for sharing Dave’s story.
What a Gal
By Dave Simondet of Waite Park
(reprint from May 2021, Lindbergh Edition)
I married a woman
58 years ago
Expecting that she
would be my wife.
Little did I know that my
expectations were too low.
I now have something more than a wife.
A doctor and a nurse
Any other role she
is asked to perform.
And her greatest achievement:
A mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother,
In short, she is an all-around superwoman!
I hope I have her
the rest of my life!
(Unless she asks for a raise!)