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For the week of July 26 through August 1, 2000

Jack Simpson dies

Ski coach, restaurateur, pilot, outdoorsman—Simpson was a widely popular valley figure


Phil Puchner remembers that Simpson was hired as a double for Sonja Henie in ski scenes in the 1941 movie "Sun Valley Serenade." He said they didn’t look anything alike, but they were about the same size.


By PETER BOLTZ
Express Staff Writer

Jack SimpsonJack Simpson, known by friends as the "prototype Sun Valley-ite," died last Sunday. He was 76.

Three longtime valley residents—Phil Puchner, Betty Bell and Bill Butterfield—knew him well.

Puchner, 78, shared a birthday with Simpson—both were born on June 11.

He said he met Simpson in 1946 when they were teaching skiing and Simpson was working at the Sawtooth Club on Main Street in Ketchum. Puchner described it as a bar and gambling joint owned by Simpson and his father when gambling was legal.

He remembers that Simpson was hired as a double for Sonja Henie in ski scenes in the 1941 movie "Sun Valley Serenade." Puchner chuckled and said they didn’t look anything alike, but they were about the same size.

He called Simpson "an awfully good ski coach," "an awfully good flyer" and "an awfully good backcountry skier."

Bell, 76, said she met Simpson through skiing shortly after she moved to the area in the winter of 1946. She said she got away with calling him "Sonja."

Simpson coached Bell’s daughter, Dusti, who remembers Simpson fondly, recalling how he always stuck up for her.

He "gave the impression of being a gruff man," Bell said, "but he was really good-natured and had a good sense of humor.

"He was a man who epitomized everything about the Wood River. He was a sportsman, he was civic minded; he was the prototype Sun Valley-ite.

"Mostly he had such zest that you’d perk up just to be around him."

Butterfield, 74, recalls how Simpson pioneered the junior ski program "all by himself, with no help from anyone."

Simpson used to take kids in his own van to competitions, he said, adding that Simpson helped put the rope tow up on Penny Mountain for the junior skiers.

At the time Simpson started coaching kids, the Sun Valley Ski School didn’t have a junior program but eventually "got behind" Simpson, he said.

"I thought the world of Jack," Butterfield said. "I don’t know anyone who didn’t."

The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation announced in June of this year that it would inaugurate the Jack Simpson Dedicated Coaches Award in the spring of 2001.

According to the Foundation’s executive director, Sheryl Schowengerdt, the "Jack Simpson award is designed to acknowledge the efforts of the coaches ‘in the trenches’ who make outstanding contributions at the club level."

 

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