For all my life, I’ve had two big brothers. I’m the youngest of four children and my older brothers Don and Gary Simpson were 15 and 12 years older than me.

Mine is a bit of a tragic family story, yet I will share that my mother found herself in the “family way” in the early 1950s — during her senior year of high school. It was the scandal of Allentown, so she and my father married before he went to Muhlenberg College.

Three years later they had my older brother Gary, and that was it for about a decade. They raised their boys and enjoyed a little family of four while my parents matured through their 20s.

Becoming financially stable, they eventually decided to try again and had my older sister Samantha in the mid-’60s. Three years later, they had me and our family was complete with six.
Sadly, my mother died when I was seven and my father when I was 17, so my older brothers played extremely important roles in my life.

My brother Don was 15 years older than me and was immediately like a father figure, doling out sage advice, helping me figure out the right thing to do and guiding me through my life choices. My brother Gary was my financial supporter; backing me in college, helping me with housing and letting me live with him during the summers. They were amazingly supportive and a wonderful team.

Although … they both had their moments where they were just big brothers. I remember spending a couple weeks with Don during the summer of 1982 when he had just returned from service in the Army in Germany. Although I was only in ninth grade, Don gave me my first taste of German white wine that summer. I didn’t like it very much — which is probably what he intended, but it was such a “cool” and grown-up thing to do! Made even more scandalous that it had come from my brother.



Don settled in Dresden, Maine, when I was in eighth grade. I would visit him during high school and make road trips in college from Chapel Hill. I had a little gang and we drove all the way to Maine to have lobsters on Don‘s porch overlooking the Kennebec in Dresden. We went to L.L. Bean with him and he showed us all the sites in Portland. He even took us to a concert at the State Theater, followed by late night eggs and bacon at Becky’s Diner.

During that time Don was working on his career. He had finished eight years in the Army and then went to USM for his nursing degree on the G.I. bill. He was always taking care of others — not just me — and he grew his nursing job into a 40-year career in the health field.

He spent the last 20 of these years at the VA Hospital at Togus where he advocated for veterans’ benefits. He was organized, determined, and focused and always found a way to get soldiers what they deserved; usually far more than they expected. Even after he retired last year during COVID, he couldn’t stay away and went back to be a volunteer at Togus during the pandemic.

Very sadly, my brother Don started to get out of bed a couple weeks ago, laid back down again and died. He was only 68 years old and had retired about a year ago. It was sudden and shocking and when my brother Gary called to tell me I was instantly angry.

This was not supposed to happen. Not this week at least. Or even this decade. I mean, I figured he would die before me since he was so much older, but I was really expecting at least another 20 or 25 years before we crossed that bridge.

My poor brother Gary is devastated as they were really looking forward to spending the next 20 years of retirement together. In fact, they had a trip booked to Allentown this week. Leaving their wives at home, they had planned to visit all the houses in which they had lived, eat at all their favorite restaurants, stroll down memory lane and be teenage brothers together again.


My girls are also sad as they’ve lost their Uncle Don who let them eat Mexican food, lived with us for a while when they were young, made the best homemade pizza and gave the world’s best hugs.

We had a lovely service for him last week in Richmond. The funeral home remarked that it was extremely well attended, which speaks to how well-loved Don was in his community. There were folks from Togus and the VA hospital, as well as the nursing home where he had worked and other jobs he’d held. There were volunteers who had only worked with him in the last year, and folks who had known him for decades. Easily, over 100 people of the Richmond, Dresden and greater Brunswick communities turned out — all wearing Hawaiian shirts which were Don’s favorite — to pay their respects to this loving, kind and funny man.

Many of my friends came to the service to support me through this time of grief, including People Plus board members, family members from Atlanta, and life-long friends who have known my brothers through me.

And several of the lovely ladies who work at People Plus also came that day. They had met Don as he used to have lunch with me at the Center after he retired and he always had a winning smile or a pleasant greeting for them.

So, as I move through these raw days of early grief, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have sent me a card, given me a hug, expressed your sympathies, sent flowers or shared your stories of loss. I have felt better for these moments of outreach and I’m grateful to all of you.

It is in times like these when I don’t know how I would get by without my People Plus family. The warmth and love are genuine, it is solid and it is sustaining. And I’ll be forever grateful.

Stacy Frizzle-Edgerton is the executive director of People Plus, the Brunswick-area senior center.

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