By Elizabeth Young
Frugal, dedicated, talented. Those are some of the words Iolita Simpson’s friends and fellow church members at Love Baptist Church in Phoenix use to describe her.
Another is generous.
Simpson, who died last year at the age of 85, left all of her estate to charitable causes, including 50 percent to the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program and 25 percent to her church.
On a special Cooperative Program Missions Sunday Aug. 27, Love Baptist Church Pastor John Elder presented a $549,000 check to David Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.
Arizona Southern Baptists’ Executive Team has decided to divide the gift as follows: 50 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international missions and ministries, 7 percent to the Arizona Campus of Gateway Seminary, 7 percent to Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries and the remainder (36 percent) to the AZSBC.
“We thank God for this amazing gift from Love Baptist Church through Iolita Simpson’s estate,” Johnson said. “The gift is even more impressive when you consider the humble lifestyle she and her husband lived to save to make such a gift possible. That was the reason that led us to the decision to give 50 percent to missions through the Southern Baptist Convention and the rest to mission work in Arizona through our partners and statewide ministry efforts. We want to honor Iolita’s heart for missions and glorify the Lord with this incredible gift!”
Cheryl Elder, pastor’s wife and church pianist, and Cal Jodat, former church music director, told about Simpson on Love’s missions Sunday.
Simpson, who never had a music lesson, was Love’s organist for more than 50 years. She arrived at 7 on Sunday mornings to make final preparations for the service.
For years during Sunday School, she served in the nursery, until finally accepting the position of Sunday School secretary. She was known for her Saturday phone calls, “just to say ‘hello’ and ‘hope to see you in church tomorrow,’” one friend recalled.
Simpson worked for Carrier Air Conditioning Wholesale Distribution Company, where she retired as executive secretary to the president. Her husband, Bob, who died in 1989, owned an auto repair shop, and Iolita was the bookkeeper.
Iolita and Bob, who had no children, lived a frugal lifestyle.
“Iolita drove a two-door 1971 Dodge Demon with a stick shift and no air conditioning,” Jodat said. Another friend added, “she drove the same blue car as long as I can remember.”
The Simpsons “never took a vacation,” Jodat said. “[Iolita] took off from work in December only because her company required it. Their limited social life revolved around Love Baptist Church.”
The distribution of the estate she left is testimony of what was important to her.
“The depth of Iolita’s spiritual faith is shown in how she lived and how she continues to embrace the cause of Christ,” said John Elder. “From Glory’s gates she will watch how her gift to the Cooperative Program reaches souls around the world. We can all learn lessons from her legacy.”