Thanksgiving morning 2015 arrived in a way I’d never expected. My doorbell rang when a dear family friend took the time to come to my home to share important and sad news with me in person, as they knew I would want to know. I’d just hung up the phone when another dear friend wanted to make sure I knew. It was like the universe reached out and hugged me from both sides, as I received the news that my dear friend Netta Simek had passed away early this morning, peacefully in her sleep. As devastating as the news was, my first thought was, “This means Netta is in Heaven having coffee with Ruth Clearfield! Things are about to get really good up there!”
Uncertain whether to smile or cry, I said a small prayer for guidance—how in the world do you even begin to describe Netta Simek? The first thought that came to mind was that each of us is fortunate enough to have people in our lives whose love and energy we can absorb and reflect onto others every day of our lives. Netta’s life, like that of a rare diamond, shone so bright that she made a wonderful impression among all those who knew her, and she had such a positive impact on so many lives, as she lived life to the fullest and shared her gifts so generously with others.
You might know her from her community volunteering, whether as President of the Arts Council, or the Gala Committees of MSC OPAS, or many years in key roles in American Heart Association Heart Rock Gala events, as a member of the Women’s Club of Bryan, and in a variety of committees at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Bryan. You could see her being honored by the Brazos Prenatal Clinic at the You’re the Tops luncheon. She adored playing bridge with “the girls” in the afternoon at Miramont Country Club in Bryan. All that collectively didn’t even begin to describe the fundamental core of Netta.
She was so much more than just “good works” Netta. First and foremost, to those in Bryan-College Station, Netta was best known as John Simek’s “redhead” as that is the loving term he used to refer to her. More correctly, she was “My redhead” as John would say, while beaming with a contented smile as he was continually so proud of all that she did.
Netta brought to John’s world a whirlwind of activity that he was both ready for and more than capable of keeping up with—Netta Jackson married John Simek on May 23, 1992, in Dallas, Texas, and over the past 23 years they went across the United States and everywhere around the world together, making new friends wherever they went and going to see dear ones they already had in their travels by plane, ship, and car.
It might be a trip to Paris, Netta’s favorite of all destinations, or it could be to cheer on her beloved University of Arkansas Razorbacks or to yet another Aggie football game, for whom she graciously rooted for every single game, except when the Aggies played Arkansas!
The quintessential hostess and true Southern Belle, Netta and John’s home reflects great taste, comfortable elegance, and tremendous classic style, just like Netta. Anywhere she was spotted in public in Bryan-College Station, one thing was for certain—she always made a beautiful presentation of fashion and style. And yet she rarely spoke of her magnificent career as a successful businesswoman, prior to her arrival in Bryan-College Station.
In a day and time when female executives were few and far between, Netta was already a pioneer. Her career in the cosmetics industry spanned everything from research, to sales and marketing, and strategy. Starting out in Kansas City, Missouri, Netta joined Coty Cosmetics. From there she moved to their New York City location where she was the National Sales Director. In San Antonio, Texas, she knew every chemical component in her work with Allercream/DuBarry and never stopped learning about her industry’s latest developments. She then joined Maybelline Cosmetics in Memphis, Tennessee, which eventually led her to Mary Kay Cosmetics, where she was Vice President of Marketing, and ultimately retired as Director of Products.
Yet, “our Netta” rarely spoke of her incredible career. To her, accomplishments were not as important as asking you about your goals and progress, encouraging you and inspiring you, especially women with lofty dreams, assuring them that they could indeed accomplish all that they set out to do, if they’d maintain focus and not give up. Women encouraging other women was one of her personal missions, a rare and appreciated quality.
Netta was a Christian woman of great faith, not surprisingly, but she loved sharing her church and their activities, even with others who didn’t attend, with grand enthusiasm. She loved St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, and all her St. Andrew’s friends were especially precious.
As consummate hostess and host in the Brazos Valley community, Netta and John generously opened their front door to friends, family, Aggie football fans, and local charitable organizations. They generously volunteered as hosts for what would become renowned dinner parties, auctioned as grand prizes for major dollars at local charitable fundraising events, particularly for the American Heart Association. Netta’s sales skills were fabulous and her raffle tickets were always “all sold out” with people still wanting more. And yet, she was extremely modest about her unique and phenomenal career that preceded her arrival in Bryan-College Station.
Her family from Arkansas was a great delight, joy, and grand source of pride to her, as was her Simek family in Texas. Somehow Netta could be sitting in Bryan and know how everyone was doing in Arkansas, while keeping tabs on favorite friends in Chicago, and then planning a trip to Paris with John and dear friends. She loved being an adoptive grandparent to Mitchell and Donna Morehead’s three daughters, and the Simeks faithfully attended the girls’ school events for all special occasions and events where loved ones were invited to attend.
We all know that she’d been a brave patient when heart disease began to do battle with the indefatigable redhead. She had wonderful doctors here and John was the general in charge and he faithfully and so graciously made sure she had the best care anywhere and everywhere, another wonderful example of love in action. From a very close, personal viewpoint, I could describe what “love” is by simply saying, “like John and Netta have.” Not once did she ever complain about having to multitask or frankly, about anything. Netta never complained.
Ask anyone to describe Netta, and you will hear perspectives from every different aspect of community life that she impacted. John Simek loves her with all of his heart and today he bravely faces life without her, bolstered and anchored by the precious love and care of their families together and a firm foundation of faith and faithfulness upon which he derives strength.
As this day of Thanksgiving 2015 draws to a close, we give thanks for the life of Netta Jackson Simek. It was a gift to know her, a privilege to be her friend and an honor to try to help tell part of her story. There’s more to be said, and more to be written in the days to come. Today the redhead began a new adventure in a life free of pain and illness, and for that we may all be thankful. She will be missed and she will forever be remembered, with love, for Netta.
-Dawn Lee Wakefield