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Colfax Commercial Club announces the J.D. Simons Community Volunteer Award

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  Do you know someone who goes above and beyond?

Someone who works tirelessly behind the scenes that you would like to see recognized for his or her efforts?

The Colfax Commercial Club will be presenting the first annual J.D. Simons Community Volunteer Award at the Colfax Founder’s Day Main Street Block Party August 6.

“There are so many people who contribute so much to the Colfax community, and the Colfax Commercial Club would like to start formally recognizing those people with the J.D. Simons Award,” said Scott Gunnufson, president of the Colfax Commercial Club.

The award fits in perfectly with the Colfax Founders Day Main Street Block Party, he noted.

J.D. Simons is recognized as the founder of Colfax in 1864.

Newspaper articles published in the Colfax Messenger prior to and after his death in 1918 indicate that Simons was a kind man, well loved by many, who was a business owner, an entrepreneur, and a proud and a staunch supporter of the Village of Colfax.

Placing and dedicating a gravestone for J.D. Simons at Hill Grove Cemetery next to the final resting place of Mrs. Simons was part of the Colfax Sesquicentennial Celebration in 2014.

To this day, it remains a mystery as to why there was no gravestone at Hill Grove Cemetery for J.D. Simons.

J.D.’s wife, Mary Simons, died in 1893. She passed away before the Messenger came into existence, so there is no obituary for her in the Messenger. The Colfax Messenger did not begin publication until 1897.

The Simons never had any children of their own. They did, however, raise two girls, Isabella R. and Martha D. Walker. In December of 1900, J.D. Simons adopted Violette A. Vanderhoef. In 1909, J.D. and Violette moved to Washington State.

At the time of his death, J.D. Simons was 84 years old. He was born July 26, 1834, in New York State.

Hometown visits

J.D. Simons returned to Wisconsin and visited Colfax every summer after he moved to Washington.

In the summer of 1917, the Messenger included a story about J.D.’s visit.

And when Mr. Simons died in May of 1918, it was front-page news for the Messenger.

When Alvin Running, who was a grandson of J.D.’s, went out to Washington to accompany J.D.’s remains back to Colfax, it was also front-page news.

And when the funeral was held for J.D., it was again front-page news in the Messenger.

The cause of J.D. Simon’s death was listed as “shock.”

According to the Messenger, Mr. Simons had been riding on a milk truck out in Washington that swerved to avoid a car and then overturned in the ditch, pinning Mr. Simons underneath. J.D. suffered a number of broken bones and was taken to the hospital where he died several hours later.  The newspaper account says that he was conscious for about a half hour after reaching the hospital but then lapsed into unconsciousness and remained unconscious until he died.

J.D. Simons did, in fact, have a number of business interests in Colfax, and the Messenger stated that his annual visits in the summer included checking on his business interests in the area.

In his obituary, the Messenger said J.D. Simons had been a farmer, a miller, a merchant and postmaster in Colfax.


The Colfax Commercial Club would like people in the community, both in Colfax and the surrounding area, to be thinking about who they would like to see recognized with the J.D. Simons Community Volunteer Award, Gunnufson said.

Nomination forms will be available soon at area businesses and at the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center.

Nomination forms also can be printed from the Colfax Commercial Club’s website at

In addition to the presentation of the J.D. Simons Community Volunteer Award on August 6, the Founder’s Day Main Street Block Party will feature bands on Main Street from noon to midnight; a craft fair on Main Street; food vendors; a beer garden; and other activities.

The nomination form for the J.D. Simons Award asks for information about the nominator, the nominee, a description of the nominee’s service work, what sets the individual apart, statistics about the  individual’s impact on the community (number of lives impacted, dollars raised, number of volunteer hours, number of volunteers mobilized) and the nominator’s connection to the individual.

The Colfax Commercial Club recognizes that many organizations contribute a tremendous amount to the Colfax community, Gunnufson said.

The J.D. Simons Community Volunteer Award is intended to provide recognition to an individual, and if the individual is working through an organization, then recognition of the organization will accompany recognition of the individual, he said.

The deadline for submitting nominations is July 5.

Nominations can be mailed to the Colfax Commercial Club at P.O. Box 417, Colfax WI 54730 or dropped off at the village office in the Colfax Municipal Building, at Colfax Arts & Antique Mall on Main Street in Colfax or at the Colfax Messenger office on Railroad Avenue.