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Support for Simpsons surges

STORY BY MEG LAUGHLIN, (Week of September 12, 2013)

An incredible outpouring of support by barrier island residents has raised, in less than a week, half the total needed to save the home of Kristen Simpson, whose husband was murdered by a burglar two years ago.

By Monday afternoon, the 32963 Simpson Home Fund, launched by Vero Beach 32963 last week in an effort to prevent the loss of the Simpson home to Chase Bank, had received pledges of $134,650 with $43,100 of that amount already in a Marine Bank & Trust account.

It will take $220,000 to keep Kristen and her two teenage children in the home.

In November 2011, Kristen Simpson’s husband Brian was murdered in their Central Beach home by a home invader. Almost two years after this death, Kristen and the couple’s two teenagers were facing another emotional loss because Kristen couldn’t afford the mortgage on her teacher’s salary of $38,000 a year.

But, on the heels of a Vero Beach 32963 article and a subsequent call for donations to save the home, promises of contributions and checks have been pouring in, raising the hope that the initial tragedy of Brian’s death will not be compounded by the family being ousted from the house on Fiddlewood.

The amounts of the checks and pledges received to date have ranged from $100 to $75,000.

The Simpson’s mailman – who saw suspicious men in the neighborhood three days after the murder and called 911, helping police apprehend the two home invaders – is selling honey from his bee hive to contribute to the fund.

An office manager and government employee who have “the smallest house in Central Beach” pitched in $1,500. The owner of two local car dealerships pledged a check for $20,000.

A Maryland supermarket owner with a winter home on the barrier island gave $1,000.  A retired teacher and her husband gave $100. An anonymous donor promised a whopping $75,000, another $10,000 and another $500.

From all over the area, residents – full-time and seasonal – are helping out, all with one thought in mind: They refuse to stand by and watch Kristen and the children lose their home without trying to do their part.

In conversations about the decision to contribute, most of their voices break, overcome by the loss of Brian Simpson, the impending loss of the home and, now, the poignant coming together of this community.

Sue Harried, a retired teacher from Wisconsin who asked if a $100 contribution was too small, said that she and her husband wanted to give what they could “to help turn a house that was a monument to tragedy into a symbol of the love that so many of us feel for the Simpson family.

“We want to drive by that house and feel proud and warmed by it, not chilled,” said Harried.

Phyllis Frey, who with husband George gave $200, said, “Kristen and the kids are part of this beach family, and we want to know we did something to keep them here.”

Tom Graul, a Maryland supermarket owner with a winter home here, agreed: “We can’t change the horrible thing that happened to Brian. But we can change Kristen’s losing the house.”

Thomas and Ann Marie Chiarenza, owners of Vero US 1 Nissan and Route 60 Hyundai, pledged $20,000. Their reason: “Nobody should lose a home to a tragedy like that.”

John’s Island resident Barbara Brugh chalked her $2,000 pledge up to “brotherly love.”

“We all want to do what we can to make a sad, sad story less sad,” she said.

Kristen Simpson, while extremely thankful, said she is trying not to follow the effort too closely: “I’m afraid to think that staying here is truly an option because believing in something that good and fearing the disappointment if it doesn’t happen is more than I can handle right now,” she explained.

She is, instead, concentrating on the elementary school kids she coaches as a full-time physical education teacher and her own two children, Samantha and Scott, who are both in high school and active in sports.

Kristen always goes to their competitions and cheers them on, as their father used to. In an e-mail to Vero Beach 32963 Kristen described herself as “one busy mama.”

Always open, down-to-earth and thoughtful, she wrote: “I am so thankful ... but I cannot yet let myself imagine what it would feel like to know that I can call this my home, mean it and believe it.”

Meanwhile the fund-raising  continues.

To contribute, make checks payable to the 32963 Simpson Home Fund, and mail them to accountant Clay Price at 5070 N. Highway A1A; suite 250; Vero Beach, Fl. 32963. Or e-mail  Vero Beach 32963 publisher Milton Benjamin at or call staff writer Meg Laughlin at 226-7924 to arrange to get a check delivered to Clay Price. September 14 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Simpson mailman John Truckner will sell his Indian River Bee Company honey at the Food Truck Frenzy at Riverside Park and donate half of the proceeds to the 32963 Simpson Home Fund.