Antigone “Andy” Simpson is widely regarded as the first lady of tennis in the Greater Alton area. Mrs. Simpson’s passing on Sunday at the age of 92 marked a sad day for Alton and the surrounding area. She’s touched many lives.
“Alton lost a great friend when Mrs. Simpson passed,” Edwardsville High School tennis coach Dave Lipe said. “Her influence on the tennis community and the Alton community will be felt long after her death. Her generosity and the love she showed everyone in Alton are things that will be remembered for a long, long time and they should be.”
Fittingly, she made one last statement, waiting for the completion of the 34th annual Bud Simpson Open on Sunday. It’s the city tennis tournament named for her late husband, Dr. Raymond “Bud” Simpson, who died in 1982 while playing in a tennis tournament at Rock Spring Park.
The Bud Simpson Open has become a staple in the Alton community and one that Mrs. Simpson loved dearly to honor her husband and the sport she loved.
“It’s really a strange coincidence that she passed away right after this 34th annual Bud Simpson Tournament completed,” James Humphrey said. He worked as tournament director for the Bud Simpson Open. “I heard she died early (Monday) morning and I was posting some things about the tournament and I wrote something to our sponsors and I thanked the Simpson family like I always do. The way I wrote it was, she always remembered the tournament and showed her love for the players every year even though it became increasingly hard for her to do so.”
Before her health began to deteriorate, Mrs. Simpson showed her support at the Bud Simpson Open, not just monetarily, or through tennis support, but her love for the players. She would be in charge of bringing bananas to give the players and took her job seriously.
Kathy Claywell, a member of the Bud Simpson Open Tennis Tournament Committee, has inherited that job over the last few years and embraces it.
“I used to kid her and say, ‘Someday I’m going to take over your job in bringing the bananas,’” Claywell said. “And the last few years I’ve actually brought those bananas, so it makes me feel kind of close to Andy that I can bring those bananas to the tennis site.”
The legacy of the Simpson family already has been felt in the Greater Alton area for quite some time. The tennis courts inside Gordon Moore Park are named for Bud Simpson, while the courts at Lewis and Clark Community College are named for Andy Simpson — both vehicles to showcase their enduring passion for the sport.
On the website for the Simpson Memorial Tennis Program, simpsontennis.org, there is a message from Mrs. Simpson under the Simpson Legacy tab. The committee was formed to help preserve Alton tennis and is attempting to raise money to resurface the courts at the Ray Simpson Complex inside Moore Park.
An excerpt from Mrs. Simpson’s message reads, “I’ve been in love with tennis since I fell in love with an avid tennis player, Bud Simpson, when I was 16. Tennis was always a part of our life ...”
She was preceded in death, not just by her husband, but by her son Robert, who died in 2004. He was also a huge proponent for the sport of tennis and avid player. Tennis has truly been a family affair with the Simpsons and a way Mrs. Simpson used to honor the lives of her husband and son.
Her passion for her community and sports went further than just tennis, though. Mrs. Simpson is also a part of the Wall of Fame at Alton High. She was inducted in the second class in 2009-10.
For years she could be found attending Alton basketball games at West Middle School, sitting right in the front row.
“She loved basketball and she loved the kids,” city of Alton recreation supervisor Bill Diddlebock said. “She’d go to basketball games, some baseball games, loved tennis, but basketball might have been her favorite. I remember having dinners where she’d take the players out, or have a party. She was just a very loving lady.”
Diddlebock remembers Mrs. Simpson from way back and her generous personality.
“I remember her from when I first got out of college and Bill Kodros, who was her nephew, we lived together. A bunch of us college guys had a house and I remember we would go over to their house all the time with Mr. and Mrs. Simpson and we’ve been close ever since,” Diddlebock said. “She used to make me baklava. She was such a nice lady and did so much for the community, it really is a sad time, especially right after having the Bud Simpson Tournament.”
Lipe added, “It wasn’t just the support she gave tennis, but it was the real love she gave the tennis community. I can still picture her coming out to the matches with her box of candy bars and handing them out to the players, just a sweet woman.
“It’s a life we should all celebrate and remember for as long as we can because she set a great example of how to live. She loved her family, was loved by her family and loved by everyone.”
Humphrey said, “You could tell she appreciated you as someone who was working with people with tennis. I just felt the deepest appreciation from her.”
Maybe it was her own words that summed up what she meant most.
“She always thanked anyone she ran into in the tennis community. She would say, ‘Thank you for all that you do,’” Claywell said. “Those were always her words and she was just so sweet you would want to do something for her.”
Maybe it’s Alton’s turn to use her words. Thank you for all that you did, Andy Simpson; you will be missed not just by your family, but your community, too.
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