By Jean Doran Matua, Editor
It came as a surprise when LeRoy got the phone call one evening. A voice told him that he was selected as grand marshal for this year’s Kraut N Wurst. A retired member of the Watkins Fire Department, he thought it was a joke. “Let me talk to the Chief,” he demanded.
Well, it’s not a joke, and LeRoy Simmons is indeed this year’s grand marshal.
“It’s an honor, to be sure,” he told us this week. “I had no clue.”
Then he chuckled, “I guess everybody’s got to have a grand marshal.”
Simmons served on the Watkins Fire Department from 1974-1994, back when they all did everything. Since retiring, he’s part of the crew that helps each year with Kraut N Wurst, along with current and retired members of the Kimball Fire Department. A week later, they swap places, with Watkins helping over at Kimball Days.
Being part of the fire department “was a great experience,” he said. “It’s amazing how you can get 25 people together from different walks of life, and get to know each other” and work together so well. He likened it to being in the military, depending on each other. And Simmons knows about that, too; he served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1965-1967, with a 13-month tour in Vietnam.
Simmons graduated from Kimball High School in 1962. He worked 22 years as manager of the ReadyMix plants in Watkins and Richmond. He then worked 12 years at Barbarosa Construction in the Cities before retiring.
LeRoy and his wife Sharon raised three children – Shawn, Mary and Debbie – and today enjoy four grandsons
Simmons runs the Legion Club in Watkins, is a member of the V.F.W., and is active where his church (St. Anthony’s) needs him. “I keep busy,” he says. “You know, you’ve got to.”
Watch for Leroy toward the front of the parade Saturday morning; it starts at 10:30 a.m.
He’ll be riding in a convertible and waving a lot, and you can’t miss big his smile. And please be sure to wave back – he’s earned it.