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Generous 32963 readers save Simpson home

STORY BY MEG LAUGHLIN, (Week of September 26, 2013)
Photo: Samantha, Kristen and Scott Simpson in their Central Beach home.

Thanks to a continued outpouring of generosity from readers, the 32963 Simpson Home Fund – launched by Vero Beach 32963 just three weeks ago in a bid to stave off bank repossession of the home of a beachside man murdered by burglars – is on the verge of success.

As of 2 pm Monday, Sept. 23, $203,895 was in the bank, which is only $16,105 short of what administrators at mortgage holder Chase Bank said they needed to let Kristen Simpson keep the family’s Central Beach home.

If pledges come in as expected – and the bank accepts the $220,000 that administrators said they needed to close out the morgage – the home will belong to the  Simpson family.

“I cannot believe what I am hearing,” said Kristen Simpson, fighting back tears. “I am bursting with gratitude. I honestly cannot even find the words to express how I feel.”

A few days ago, accountant Clay Price, who is overseeing the fund, went to the Simpson home with attorney Brian Connally to tell Kristen that victory was close at hand. The plan was for Price to announce the good news.

“But I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t talk,” said Price.

When Connally told Kristen, she began sobbing and saying “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

“I can hardly think about how she reacted without choking up again,” said Price.

A month ago, Vero Beach 32963 told readers that Simpson, along with her two teenagers Scott and Samantha, was losing the family home, less than two years after her husband Brian, the kids’ father, was shot to death in the home by a burglar.

On her teacher’s salary, Kristen could not meet the monthly mortgage. The bank, rather than foreclose and destroy her credit, said it would take a deed-in-lieu and take the house back.

Kristen had begun packing boxes and trying to find an apartment for the three of them to rent within her budget of $700 a month. Son Scott made his mom promise they would take the pool table with them, which was the family’s birthday gift to Brian before he died. Daughter Samantha comforted her mom when she sobbed while packing, telling her they would be OK leaving the home. They would adjust.

But the home, Kristen knew, was an anchor for the family, a place where the three of them felt Brian’s presence and love.

On Sept. 5, Vero Beach 32963 launched the 32963 Simpson Home Fund, explaining to readers how they could contribute to help the Simpsons keep their home. Accountant Price oversaw the fund and deposited checks in a Marine Bank account. Attorney Connally offered to negotiate with the bank if and when the goal was reached.

In under three weeks, it appears the goal has been achieved.

Donations poured in from readers ranging in size from $10 to $20,000.

After a John’s Island resident emailed stories about the Simpsons and the fund to friends at summer homes in other parts of the country, they sent in checks of between $1,000 and $10,000. The Quail Valley membership got together and a number of members sent checks averaging $5,000 each.

A local car dealer donated $25,000. An anonymous donor did the same. A woman walked into Marine Bank and handed a $10 bill to a teller, saying “for the Simpson fund.” A fellow teacher of Kristen’s gave $1,000, recalling how Kristen had gotten donations for her when she couldn’t afford to travel for radiation after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease.

Dockside owner Jerry Maher started setting aside 5 percent of whatever he takes in. The Simpson mailman raised $505 from selling honey from his bee hives.

Musician M.J. Wicker, a local favorite who was a close friend of Brian Simpson’s, is selling his CD Water Songs and setting aside $5 of the $10 cost for each CD for the Simpsons.

In the title song, Wicker sings about missing Brian when he’s out on the water because the two of them used to fish together. A Little More Line is a song on the CD about Brian who often said, “Give that fish a little more line.” When Wicker talks about Brian, his voice breaks.

“Like so many other people in this town, I want to do whatever I can to help Kristen and those kids keep that home.”

On the night in November 2011, when Brian was felled by a bullet, Kristen and the kids were out. Samantha was singing in the chorus at Sebastian High and Kristen was there. Scott was playing baseball in the Riverside field. Brian was supposed to be at his game but didn’t show up because he stopped by the home before going.

But he never made it.

At about 8:30 pm, Scott, who was on his bicycle, with Kristen and Samantha following him in the car, turned down Fiddlewood. They saw the flashing lights of police cars in front of the house and the yellow crime tape. A neighbor who heard shots coming from the house had called police.

Police stopped Scott and the car and told the three of them they couldn’t go to the house. Samantha and Kristen got out of the car and stood with Scott, as the Vero Beach police chief walked toward them.

“I am so sorry. Something terrible has happened,” he began.

To this day, Kristen can’t remember what he said after that. Samantha fell to the ground. Then Scott fell next to her in his baseball uniform. The police chief looked so sad. Kristen asked with someone else’s voice, “Did he suffer?”

The police chief answered with a question: “How does he sleep?”

“We spoon,” said Kristen. “Kind of on his side.”

“Well, he was just like that. Very peaceful,” said the police chief.

In the almost two years since, Kristen reassures herself with those words.

The first time she and the kids returned to the house, she described it as “eerie.” But the tragedy of Brian’s death there soon gave way to the wonderful memories the three of them had of him in their home.

“It’s where peace is for us,” said Kristen.