Blanche Brinkley Simmerson Richards, lovingly known as “Bunny,” passed away peacefully on Monday, March 14, 2022, at age 85 at Majestic Gardens assisted living center, in South Daytona, FL.
Daughter of the late Joseph Hill and Velma Hewett Brinkley, Bunny is survived by her devoted husband, Ronald R. Richards of Port Orange, FL; daughters Terri Simmerson Noell of Pensacola, FL, and Stacye Simmerson Gallo, who resides in Decatur, GA, with her husband, William K. Gallo, Jr.; daughter in-law Victoria Smith Simmerson of Orlando; eight grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; cousins, including Marion Hewett of Winter Springs, FL, who was raised as her sister, and Jean Hewett Megahee of Orlando; stepson James M. Simmerson III of Jacksonville; and many nephews, nieces, great-nephews and great-nieces. Bunny was preceded in death by her brothers, Harrison Hill “Buddy” and Robert Johnson “Bobby” Brinkley; her beloved son, Charles Marion Simmerson II; son in-law Michael P. Noell; and stepson Troy A. Simmerson.
A third-generation native of Central Florida, Bunny was born on Sept. 23, 1936, in Daytona Beach, and grew up in Orlando. As a small child in Jamajo, Bunny played outside with her brothers, twin uncles and cousins, swam in nearby lakes and picked oranges, lemons and kumquats for lunch. On Saturdays she rode the bus downtown to the Beacham Theatre, where she sang in the Tom Thumb Follies and watched newsreels and double features. An energetic student at Boone High School, Bunny enjoyed performing as a cheerleader and acrobat and playing 1st chair clarinet. After high school she earned the title of Miss Orange County Democrat, for which she was thrilled to win an entire new wardrobe.
Always wanting the best for her children, she developed a keen interest in early childhood education and opened Bunny’s Montessori School in the mid-1950s in Orlando. There she provided good jobs for the women in her family and top-notch preschool education for theirs and many other children, especially her daughter Terri. Later, as her family grew and moved to Nashville, TN, Bunny earned a teaching certificate from St. Nicholas Montessori College in the United Kingdom through an intensive correspondence course, which she completed in four months.
At a time when banks did not lend money to women, Bunny secured a small loan, remodeled the ground floor of their home, and worked tirelessly to establish Simmerson’s Little School of Montessori, the first of its kind in Tennessee. Within a short time, her school was booming, leading her to run double sessions. Many prestigious families, including the governor and country music performers, sent their children to her school. At the peak of its success, Bunny sold her school in 1971 when she and her family returned to Florida.
After settling in Winter Park, she became a licensed Realtor. During the next 40 years, Bunny earned many awards and several advanced certifications in real estate. In addition to selling homes, she had a gift for renovating them. One of her favorite projects was fully restoring the Victorian-style Temple House at 1700 Alabama Drive, where she and her family lived for several years during the early 1980s.
Bunny had a passion for life. Always ready for adventure, she honed her fly-fishing skills in Vermont, took a balloon safari in Kenya, and married her husband Ron on the beach in Kauai. She took up many causes, including working to protect Sea Bird Island sanctuary in her new home of Port Orange, FL. Determined to make a positive impact during the pandemic, Bunny worked round the clock to design and sew thousands of beautiful face masks, which she and Ron donated each week to numerous outreach groups in their community, including a shelter for women and children and Halifax Hospital, where she was born. In addition, during her last few years, Bunny became fascinated with Monarchs and worked with her husband to create a butterfly garden in their yard.
A lifelong student of Christian Science, Bunny was very active in her church, serving on committees and as a Reading Room attendant at several branch churches. She loved Christian Science and passed this devotion onto her children and grandchildren.
An inspiring, empowered woman, Bunny was dearly loved and will be missed by many.
A graveside service will be conducted by Vicki Sheffield, CS, on Saturday, March 19, at 1:00 p.m. at Greenwood Cemetery, 1603 Greenwood St., Orlando, FL 32801.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to: The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Treasurer, P.O. Box 239103, Boston, MA, 02123-9103 or online at https://www.giving.christianscience.com; or to Save Our Monarchs Foundation, P.O. Box 390135, Minneapolis, MN 55439 or online at https://www.saveourmonarchs.org/
Funeral arrangements are being made by Baldwin Brothers, 620 Dunlawton Ave., Port Orange, FL 32127, (386) 333-9017. An online tribute wall is available at https://www.baldwincremation.com/