Leonard Cole Simpson, 86, of Lehi, UT died at home, Tuesday, August 9, 2022, surrounded by his family. Known by family and friends for his fierce love of God, family, and the land that he farmed, Leonard lived a life marked by service and hard work.
Born on September 3, 1935, in Rupert, Minadoka County, Idaho, Leonard was the third of 11 children born to Edward Phillip Lord Simpson, of Downey, Idaho, and Lureta Mary Cole of Rupert, Idaho.
His childhood was spent farming. raising and training horses and caring for the other farm animals he loved so well.
One of his oldest memories, Leonard would tell people, was driving his father’s tractor at age 4. Leonard remembered having to stand on the seat to be tall enough to steer the tractor. His father had asked him if he would drive the tractor home. Leonard, always willing, almost made it home before he plowed the family tractor through the neighbor’s fence line.
Leonard had an amazing gift with horses. When he was a boy, his father was still farming with horse drawn equipment and Leonard loved using the teams of horses to do the farm work. One time his father had purchased a horse at the sale that he was then going to resale. Someone came to look at the horse to possibly purchase it. Leonard’s dad asked Leonard to get on it and ride it around. He walked it, loped, trotted, and then galloped around the pen and the horse handled beautifully for Leonard. Leonard’s dad asked him what they should name the horse and Leonard told him the name should be Empty Saddles because he thought it would be prone to buck. Later it was discovered that the horse was a champion bucking horse from the Rodeo that had been accidently included in the batch of horses to be sold. Leonard at 9 years old had been the first rider to ride the horse and not been thrown.
When he was 12 years old a man who raised horses wanted to have Leonard move to his ranch so Leonard could be trained to be his jockey. Leonard’s dad was afraid of the bad influence it might have been on Leonard and told him not to accept.
During his childhood, Leonard moved from Rupert to Caldwell and to Parma Idaho. His love for farming and working with horses was a big part of his life. In high school he participated in boxing with his brother Leland at Parma High School where he graduated.
In 1959 Leonard was called on a mission to Niue Island, a small island about 350 miles northwest of Tonga. Niue was a country with a proud heritage and its own language. In the early days of his mission Leonard had appendicitis. The doctor who operated on him was drunk and did not wash or use gloves during the operation. The infection caused from the surgery nearly cost him his life. He suffered from internal boils and was in and out of the hospital for the rest of his mission. Leonard loved the people of Niue and studied hard to learn the language. He translated the Relief Society, Priesthood and Sunday School manuals into the Niuean language for the saints there. He experienced the same great hurricane that Brother Groeberg whose mission was the subject of the movie “The Other Side of Heaven,” The boat came soon after and there was not a food shortage but massive damage of homes and buildings.
When Elder Groberg’s companion, Feki was sent to go back to construction, he was sent to Niue and was a good friend of Elder Simpson. When Leonard left Niue to return to the states, he was so beloved by the people of the island that they lined the mile and a half stretch of road that went from the mission home to the dock and buried him in flower leis and hugs. It was a profound experience in his life.
On returning home he got a job as a car salesman for Edmark Motors in Caldwell, Idaho. It was during this time that he married Judith Diane Stine in the Salt Lake City Temple. Wanting to obtain an education Leonard and Judy moved to Provo, Utah, where he attended BYU and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Personnel Administration. Two beautiful children were born of this union, DeNese Diane and Leonard Scott Simpson. Life is a process, and these years were hard for the couple in many ways. The marriage ended and they went their separate ways.
In 1972, Leonard married Swanny Lee Lazenby after a whirlwind courtship that started with a chance meeting outside the bathrooms at a dance hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were married on Sept. 29, of that year and had a long and happy marriage. Leonard died just six weeks short of their 50th wedding anniversary.
While attending BYU, Leonard began a career at Geneva Steel where he worked for 25 years. There, Leonard was well known as a crane operator and scarfer. Both jobs required focus, attention to detail and a steady hand. As a scarfer, Leonard was responsible for burning out defects in the steel using a hand torch, assuring the structural integrity of the steel. As a crane operator he was tasked with the transportation of heavy loads by using a traveling or stationary crane with extreme precision. His job required him to seamlessly work with a team, follow directions, and be comfortable using giant machinery.
Swanny, remembers several experiences where Leonard’s colleagues commented to her, “Your husband is a good man. And he is the best crane operator we have ever had out here.”
Leonard stood out for his integrity and was known to set an example for his peers, and they respected him for it.
Leonard and Swanny had seven more children, Laurel Lee, Swanny Lee, Heather Marie, Michael Ray, Tamera Lynn, Jacob Allen, and Justin Leonard, and opened their doors to numerous siblings, nieces, nephews, and others who needed a safe place to roost for a while. Leonard was a great youth leader and would often be found counseling with the young people who were staying with them, attending college or other pursuits.
Those years were full of the experiences of raising a large family. The children remember their father purchasing a ski boat and many summer days were spent out on the lake. He was always glad to share the boat with the young men and women groups taking them to Lake Powell and other boating trips.
Leonard enjoyed teaching the youth in church and was often a Sunday School teacher or Boy Scout Master. He loved teaching the young people the gospel of Jesus Christ and they enjoyed listening to him.
In 1986, after Geneva Steel shut down, Leonard bought a 120-acre farm in Palmyra, Utah. Leonard, throughout his life, expressed awe for his father’s talent with horses and spent much of his life continuing his father’s legacy, maintaining a small herd of horses and cattle, and teaching his children and grandchildren how to love and care for the animals.
“Most of my teenage memories with dad took place at the farm,” Michael said. “Many days pulling and burning weeds, digging ditches, and hauling hay. One thing I learned about farming was if something could go wrong it likely would. It felt like every time we had a plan to get something done there would be some broken part on the tractor or equipment that made the job take twice as long as it should have. It never seemed to faze dad, he was a hard and steady worker.”
That legacy continued to his grandchildren, as Nate remembers, “Grandpa showed me unconditional love throughout my life and taught me what a man is and should be. How to work hard and when you want something to go after it and don’t give up. He was always so patient teaching a 13-year-old boy about horses. We would saddle a horse up, and he would lead me around until I was ready to go on by myself.”
About the same time he bought the farm, Leonard began a new career, working 10 years at the Utah State mental hospital in Provo, Utah, as a guard. When he was 59 years old, Leonard attended the police academy so that he could be a certified guard. At the end of his stint at the police academy, Leonard was recognized for being the most physically fit cadet—an award which had never been won by someone over the age of 25. His recognition was met by a standing ovation from his peers. Leonard retired from the state mental hospital when he was 62, able to put his focus and dedication into his family and his farm.
Leonard was a patriarch to his wife and family. He gave many blessings of council and healing to his children. The family quickly grew as his children and grandchildren married. He very much enjoyed his role of grandfather and great grandfather.
One of the most outstanding things that the children, grandchildren, neighbors, and co-workers loved about Leonard is that he saw people the way the savior would have. He was never judgmental, always thoughtful, and respectful. This was noticed throughout his life. The years he worked at the State Mental Hospital there was an award given every quarter for the best caregiver. The patients voted on who would win this award and for 10 years Leonard worked there he won the award each quarter because of his open, thoughtful way of dealing with the inmates who were mentally ill and often drug addicts, sometimes murderers or those having committed other serious crimes. He treated everyone with respect and kindness, always offering gentle advice without trying to push his views judgmentally onto those he was working with.
Leonard and Swanny spent the last years of his life living in Lehi, Utah, with their sons Justin, Leonard Scott, and Jacob and his family. Leonard is preceded in death by his parents, Edward Phillip Lord Simpson, of Downey, Idaho, and Lureta Mary Cole of Rupert, Idaho, and his sisters Sharon Verlee Grover, and Carol Jean Gilman. Leonard is survived by his wife, Swanny; his siblings Nolan, Leland, Doris Ann Moses, Lureta Carter, Edward, Betty Lou Gipson, William, Mark; and his children DeNese Diane Surratt, Leonard Scott, Swanny Lee Makin, Laurel Lee Powell, Heather Marie Jenkins, Michael Ray, Tamera Lynn Schaeffer, Jacob Allen, and Justin Leonard.
A viewing for the public will take place on the evening Friday, August 19, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., and the morning of August 20, from 9:30 – 10:30, in the Relief Society room of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Stake building located at 890 West 3070 North, Lehi, Utah 84043. The funeral will begin at 11:00 am. Leonard will be interred at the Highland Cemetery.
Condolences for the family may be expressed on this page.
For those unable to attend the services, they can be viewed by clicking HERE