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Simmons Reflects on Years as Director of the Bellingham Senior Center

Dec 28, 2021 12:31PM ● By Pamela Johnson

Former Bellingham Senior Center Director Muriel Simmons

    Muriel Simmons is one of the sweetest, most caring people you’d ever want to meet. She was also the director of the Bellingham Senior Center between 1995 and 2005. She presided over the move of the Center from the what is now the North Community Building at the corner of Maple Street and Hartford Avenue to its present central location at 40 Blackstone St.
   
As she said in her farewell letter to members of the Center in 2005, “This monumental project, perhaps my biggest accomplishment, could not have happened without your extraordinary enthusiasm and generosity.” With money from the Town of Bellingham, a big corporate donation, and member contributions, they paid for the move and construction of the new Center.
  
 Simmons, now age 83, was a magnet for enthusiasm and generosity. “I had an open-door policy at the office,” she explains. “I need your advice… I have to talk to you,” she would tell seniors. “They would come to me with their problems and ideas, and we would work on them together.”
   
Members of the Council on Aging Board of Directors “would come in every day and we would talk… we were a big family!”
   
At her retirement ceremony in 2005, Town Administrator Denis Fraine said, ‘I will miss her. We had a good working relationship and an even better friendship – we had a lot of fun.”
   
Then State Representative Dr. Jennifer Callahan noted, “No one compares to Muriel—not only her heart and soul, but the effort she has put into expanding programs, and she has done that through leadership. We all admire the dedication of someone who gives of themselves in public service over the years and Muriel has certainly done that.”
   
Back then (late 1990 and early 2000) “Senior Centers were not nearly as popular as they are now,” Simmons recalls. “They were held at town halls and churches. People slowly began to realize that seniors needed places to go, things to do, social opportunities, food, mental and physical support.”
   
“What I would tell directors of senior centers today is to be patient,” she offers. “Be patient with your seniors, be patient with the town, and be patient with yourself. Keep on plugging!”
   
She had left her job as director of the Blackstone Senior Center when she received a phone call from the COA board in Bellingham; they wanted her to come run the center here. “I told them I’d have to think about it… and then accepted,” she smiled.
   
Simmons lives in Blackstone and was born and raised in Bellingham. Her husband passed away seven years ago, shortly after their 50th wedding anniversary. She has two grown children, Susan and Joe, and three grandchildren.
   
When her husband, Joe, was alive he once said, “She never refused anything. They [at the Center] could depend on her– she’d get calls at nine o’clock at night. She put a lot of effort into her job.”
   
Hobbies? “Cooking and reading… I particularly like newspapers, magazines, and cookbooks,” she says. “I like trying new recipes like marinated chicken wings with cider, soy sauce, and seasonings.”
   
As for the COVID 19 pandemic, she says that, despite the stresses, “It did bring families closer together with many finding their own new types of entertainment.”
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