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Portola Valley loses an icon

Original post made on Dec 8, 2009

A new Wednesday morning routine has settled in at Portola Valley Hardware at the corner of Alpine and Portola roads: the absence behind the register of former store owner Helen "Tommy" Simpson.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 9, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (7)

Posted by Annika Simpson, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 8, 2009 at 5:57 pm

My grandmother was the most amazing woman. She was, and will continue to be a great inspiration to me. I am eternally grateful that I was able to be there for her over the last few months. At first every other day to help with the cats, and then, full time when she grew more dependent. I can only hope I was able to make her last days as special as she made them for me. She regaled me with stories about her life in the Valley, the special trips she was lucky to take (like riding elephants on a tiger reserve in India), and even that she met Amelia Earhart at Ogontz! I loved her dry sense of humor and sharp wit and enjoyed writing snazzy comments in her diary for her. Although she needed help with getting around during her last days, she was still extremely independent, even letting me know when I was trying to be too helpful. One day, she was trying to turn the T.V. off with the telephone and accidentally pressed the 911 button. When the police showed up ten minutes later and determined everything was fine, grandmother and I had a good laugh and a funny story to tell. She wasn't bothered by the handicaps that come with age, and when she passed peacefully, she inadvertently taught me not to fear my own mortality. I will forever love and miss my grandmother, and friend, Tommy Simpson. I hope I have inherited even half of her remarkable qualities.


Posted by Danna Breen, a resident of Encinal School
on Dec 9, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Since my children and I were patients of Dr. Bob's and I frequent the hardware store (since my house is kindly referred to the BD (bulldozer) house up the road), I encountered Tommy a lot and I will miss her just being there behind the counter or talking to me comfortingly at Dr. Bob's office while I waited by the fire for him give the person in the dentist chair the heave ho ( THAT is another story for the annals of history!)What a lovely little village life it has been.Tommy's energy really contributed to that spirit of small town living.


Posted by A Ladera neighbor, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Dec 9, 2009 at 12:30 pm

PV's "older" generation is full of such wonderful people. It's very sad when we hear of another treasure citizen passing. I'd wish I'd known about Ms. Simpson's wonderful life when she used to handle my purchases at the hardware store. My sympathies to her family - I hope they find comfort in all their stories about her.


Posted by JoAnn Loulan, a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Dec 9, 2009 at 7:23 pm

I remember so many years of seeing Tommy at the hardware store (which I never knew she owned, she just knew everything!) and of course at Dr. Bob's office--she was always so patient in both arenas. I loved her sense of humor at Dr. Bob's--she'd just shrug her shoulders and we'd have a good laugh when I'd ask "how much longer do you think he'll be?"She will be missed by so many of us, a quiet, steady, comforting person and great role model to all women! What a great long life.


Posted by Joanne Klebe, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Dec 9, 2009 at 9:46 pm

I met Tommy when I was 16 years old ~ thought I was all grown up and knew it all. Tommy opened my eyes to the natural world around me, giving me my first field guide to birds when I graduated from high school. Took me to the Audubon Canyon Ranch where I did volunteer work, took me to Ano Nuevo to look at elephant seals many years before it was ever a state park. She always shared all of her animals with me. Saw my first litter of puppies being born, experienced my first of many animals being but to sleep. She shared her love of horses and horsemanship with me. She accepted everyone and there was always room for one more at the dining room table. My life has been enriched by knowing Tommy all these years. I miss her very much.


Posted by KiKi Simpson, a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2009 at 12:44 pm

I met Tommy about 34 years ago. Two years before her son Jim and I were married. She has a been such an independent woman.Even in her eighties she was hanging out the kitchen window to retrieve the bird feeder and fill it up so the birds wouldn't go hungry. I think it gave us all gray hairs! This little woman hanging out over two stories. Whew! I have been through many dogs and cats that she owned and outlived. In her later years, she would get older dogs thinking they would outlive her. She outlived all the dogs but there are still 4 wonderful cats living at her house. She will be missed by all us humans but also by all the critters she befriended. Deer, skunks, racoons etc. I miss you so much Tommy.


Posted by Sheryl Nouaux, a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I enjoyed my visits with Tommy as we sat together with a cup of coffee at her table sharing stories of dogs and cats either from our life or from books we had read. We met in 2004 after she rescued a homeless Australian Shepherd. To make up for his time on the street we gave him two places to call home - her place in Portola Valley and mine in Half Moon Bay. Tucker was stopped twice on the coastside and correctly identified as Tommy's dog!

I brought Tucker along with me to the beautiful Memorial of Tommy's life. He was warmly greeted and invited in to take his place among her family and friends. When asked if there was anyone else that would like to speak, I will always remember how Tucker pulled himself up on his four legs and began to bark!

You touched our hearts and we thank you, Tommy, for your kind gift of friendship.


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