Eleanor Morrison Simmons

Eleanor Morrison Simmons, 89, of O’Neal passed away on Monday, April 9, 2018 in Fernandina Beach. 

Born on July 2, 1928 to the Rev. Lenworth S. Morrison and Elizabeth Jenkins Morrison, she was the sixth of their nine children. Simmons was baptized in New Zion Baptist Church and, after relocating outside the city with her family, became a member of O’Neal Memorial Baptist Church, founded and built by her father. She rendered lifelong service at O’Neal Memorial as a Sunday School teacher and mother of the church and remained active as the church clerk until her death. 

Mrs. Simmons graduated as valedictorian of Peck High School Class of 1946. She attended Florida Normal in St. Augustine and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics with a minor in Science from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee and began her 32-year teaching career in 1950 at Jerkins High School in Taylor County, Fla.

In 1953 she married Johnnie Simmons of Perry, Fla. She began teaching at Pine Forest Community School on the West Side of her native Nassau County in 1959. Following desegregation, she served on the first integrated faculty of Hilliard High School (now Hilliard Middle-Senior High). She joined the Yulee Junior High School faculty in 1975 and, later, joined the faculty at Fernandina Beach High School as a home economics teacher. In that position, Simmons created a child care development class in which her students received hands-on training in the fundamentals  of early childhood education through an on-site preschool program. Simmons named it Sunshine City Preschool. 

She retired in 1986, qualified for her Child Development Associate (CDA) degree and co-founded and opened with her sisters, also retired teachers, the Rose-Lennie Developmental Learning Center as a nonprofit outreach of her church. 

Simmons was predeceased by her husband. She is survived by her three daughters, Nanette S. Autry (Gary Sr.), Denise S. Jefferson (Edward) and Glenda S. Jenkins (Sean); four grandchildren, Gary C. Autry Jr., Jaron Jefferson, Maya Jefferson and Zavia Jenkins; two sisters, Juliette M. Knox and Mattie M. Johnson; and an extended family of adoring nieces, nephews and cousins. She also leaves to cherish her memory a large multi-generational community of students whom she loved like her own children. 

A public viewing will convene from 4-7 p.m. on Friday, April 13, 2018 at O’Neal Memorial, 474257 S.R. 200 E., Fernandina Beach. Her funeral service will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 14, 2018 at the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 10 S. 10th St., Fernandina Beach, with the Rev. Stantley Palmer, pastor of O’Neal Memorial, as eulogist. 

Arrangements have been entrusted to the Huff and Battise Funeral Home, 410 Beech St., Fernandina Beach.

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