Joel Harrison Simmons
Joel Harrison Simmons was born on February 11, 1933 at the log cabin where his family was living in Shady Grove, Texas. The fifth of ten children born to William Jackson Simmons and his wife, Mattie Lee Briley Simmons, he was named after both of his grandfathers: Joel Hickerson Briley and William Harrison Simmons.
Joel grew up on a farm, helping in the fields and picking cotton. His Mom recalled that he was a good student and studied hard because he didn’t like farming and wasn’t going to raise cotton when he grew up. He would often show his report cards with all A’s to his daughters as inspiration. Among his proudest moments were when they both graduated from college, as he had had to work and could not afford to attend college.
After graduating from Nacogdoches High School, Joel moved to Houston for work as there were more opportunities there. It was here that he attended a revival at First Baptist Church of Jacinto City and that evening accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He was a faithful servant leader in the church, particularly at First Baptist Church Jacinto City, Willow Meadows Baptist Church and Second Baptist Church.
Joel always worked hard to provide for his family and was generous with whatever he had, whether he was enjoying financial success or not. This likely had to do with the fact that when he was growing up there was often little food and few possessions. It was not until he was in high school that he lived in a home with running water and electricity. He taught us to appreciate all we had and that ultimately the most important things in life are not possessions, but our Christian faith, our family and good food.
On June 13, 2017 Joel passed away peacefully at home in his bed. He was surrounded by love as his wife, his two daughters, his oldest sister, his youngest granddaughter, and his stepson Philippe were all with him. His daughters were quietly singing the hymns "Amazing Grace" and "Softly, Tenderly Jesus is Calling" to him as he took his last breaths.
As generous in death as in life, Joel donated his body to UT Medical Center. A celebration of life will be held at 1 p.m. on Monday, July 3 in the Hankamer Chapel at Second Baptist Church's Woodway Campus in Houston.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Second Baptist Church Prayer Ministry and Missions and the Star of Hope Women and Family Shelter.
Joel was deeply loved and is survived by the following family members:
Wife: Gabrielle Simmons
Joelyn Laughlin, her husband, Doug and their children:
- Daniel Shanks, his wife Elysia, and children Stephen, Julia Linnea, Leland and Gwendolyn
- Sarah Ritter, her husband Andrew and daughters Kathryn, Grace and Claire
- Rachel Thomas and children Ethan Villanueva, Gavin and Jolie
- Anna O’Neal, her husband Daryl and son Harrison
Sheila Simmons and her sons Michael, Matthew and Mark Schubarth
Jean-Louis Valladares, his wife Cristina and son Christian
Philippe Valladares, his wife Meredith, their son, Sebastian, and his son, Christian Dethloff
Siblings: Louise Rosengren, Juanita Bird, James Simmons, Karl Simmons, Faye Smith, Jackie Mudd, Linda Glynn and their families.