"It's time to move up to the next level": Longtime Phillips resident Muriel Simmons still an inspiration

A Memorial Tribute, Celebration, and Funeral of Muriel Barnes Simmons was Monday, January 21, 2013; the same day as:

  • 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation,
  • 50th Anniversary of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington,
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2013,
  • 2nd Inauguration of 44th President Barack Hussein Obama.

It was a remarkable coincidence with similar characteristics of organizing, struggling for freedom, uncommon accomplishments, and all promising hope for increased peace and justice.

Muriel Barnes Simmons

Born June 2, 1939 ~ Borne to God January 15, 2013

Muriel grew up on the East Coast the only child of Rev. Robert Willington & Mamie Barnes, baptized at her father’s church, Mt. Sinai Baptist at an early age.  At age 9, tumors began to develop in her nose, chest, arms, and abdomen.  Some were cancerous and some benign.  She was diagnosed with “Thalassemia Disease>”  As she grew older she inherited a blood disorder that originated in the Caribbean, similar to Sickle Cell  Anemia; for which thgere was no cure.  She also had Lupus, Epilepsy, and Parkinson’s Disease.  This left her believing that she could die at any time.  Throughout her 63 year battle she has had over 26 surgeries, however this did not stop her from living to the fullest and providing the same for her family.

She graduated from Dunbar High School and Morgan State College in Maryland.  Muriel has spent time traveling from one end of the country to the other in support of her husband’s U.S. Navy career.  In the process of her travels she has been involved in every community organization in which she resided.  She has been acknowledged by First Lady Betty Ford, as a Navy wife and community organizer.

In 1993 she made her transition to become a resident of Minnesota.  Over the past 20 years she has moved her family to Minnesota and has been vital in the growth of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  Yet again, with her last efforts she gave her time and energy to the Phillips Community and especially to the Phillips West Neighborhood in order to create a better environment for not just her family but every family within the community to enjoy. 

In Minneapolis, scores of mourners of Muriel’s death and celebrants of Muriel’s life, having endured the subzero weather to honor Muriel and support one another, heard Messiah Lutheran Church Pastor Lee Cunningham repeat Muriel‘s oft-repeated words, “it’s time to move up to the next level.” Muriel knew when the time was right and had the courage to not only move to the next level but to often take others with her and even more often inspire others to move up on their own.

City Councilmember Robert Lilligren speaking for himself and also representing Mayor R.T. Rybak (who was attending the Presidential Inauguration) spoke passionately about the profound impact Muriel had on his life as his mentor, friend, and inspiration. State Senator Jeff Hayden also spoke with heartfelt recollections about Muriel also saying that all local politicians wanting to promote an idea or legislation would always be sure to get Muriel’s blessing first so they could assure people that Muriel had heard and endorsed it.

Many of Muriel’s descendants were present and gave their own very intimate reflections of their Mother, Grandmother, and Great Grandmother Muriel who had obviously infused their hearts with the same intensity of purpose, commitment to life, and love of community, always admonishing them to “help each other out” and know when “it is the time to move to the next level.”

For more stories and eulogies of Muriel Simmons, see:

Muriel Simmons: "Grand Dame" of Phillips community

Walkin’ the talk, and other stories of longtime Phillips resident Muriel Simmons

Muriel Simmons: Servant of the people, gentle giant, drum major, and more

POINT(-93.2677033 44.9537401)