John D. SImmons
Born: August 25, 1913
Hometown: Ashland, Wisconsin
Job aboard: Wheelsman
Biographical information: John D. Simmons, wheelsman onboard the Fitz, was born in Ashland, Wisconsin, where he married Florence Higgins in 1937. They had three children; one son who died at birth, and two daughters, Patricia and Mary.
The journey that started on November 9, 1975 was going to be his last trip before his retirement from sailing on the Great Lakes. Capt. McSorley asked him to make this one last trip with him, and he agreed out of great respect for the man and the friendship they had shared for over thirty years. John was a man with great integrity and a man of principles according to relatives.
John was a jokester and a story teller; he loved telling (nieces, nephews, children) stories about the boat and his many voyages aboard her. He was the senior wheelsman and truly loved sailing. His children spent a lot of time with him on board the Fitz when he was docked in Duluth, Minnesota, and his daughter and son-in-law often picked him up and brought him home on leave.
John was also quite a pool player, even being called a "pool shark" by his granddaughter Missy Clark-Nabozny. Nabozny recalls him acting like he could barely play when betting $10 per game, only to smoke the other player toward the end of the game. He graduated from Depadua High School and played basketball well. He left money in his will for this very same school's athletic department.
His wife passed in June of 1995. Her headstone also bears his name and the words "lost at sea." She never remarried or dated after his death, and never wanted anything to do with the hype that surrounded the sinking. "I've never known a truer love story," says his granddaughter.
John Simmons has one surviving daughter, Mary, who resides in Ashland, nine grandchildren, and eighteen great grandchildren.