North Preston remembers a pioneer: Thomas “Tommy” Simmonds

Hundreds of people crowded the benches of Saint Thomas Baptist Church in North Preston on Saturday to honour and celebrate the life of a local legend, Thomas “Tommy” Simmonds.

Simmonds died on March 9 at the age of 106. He was born in 1912 — just a few days before the Titanic sank — and lived in North Preston all his life. He worked for the City of Dartmouth for 35 years before retirement.

Simmonds had 18 children, 39 grandchildren, 62 great grandchildren, and nine great-great grandchildren. His community remembers him as a pioneer, a generous soul, a handy man, and a storyteller.

“He was one of the first people to actually own a truck,” recalled granddaughter Stephanie Dixon at the funeral. “And there’s so many people who said he was their only transportation in and out of North Preston.

“In those days, you didn’t have to have seat belts. So he’d pile the back of his truck with so many people going into town.”

“He was a very proud, independent man,” added Stacey Simmonds-Baker, another granddaughter. “Loved to do things, loved to fix things. He taught us so much in these years that we’ve had him in our lives.”

The funeral was attended by friends and relatives from across Canada. Simmonds was considered by many to be a symbol of the strength, resilience and pride of North Preston — Canada’s largest and oldest Black community.

“To have somebody as old he as lived to be, it says a lot for us because we’re built on strength and we’re built on integrity, and that’s what he stood for,” Simmonds-Baker told Global News.

“And everyone that came to see him, he would speak that. He would speak positivity in their lives.”

Simmonds was buried in Church Cemetary, and the family is asking that any donations be given to the Red Cross or Saint Thomas Baptist Church in his name.

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