[pjw] Rest in Power Yvonne Simmons 1946-2022

Peace and Justice Works pjw at pjw.info
Sat Jul 2 17:34:22 EDT 2022

PJW friends

It's with a mixture of sadness and relief that I am reporting the death of 
our friend, former board member, mentor, ally, musical muse and 
troublemaker Yvonne Simmons.

Sadness at the loss of a colleague, friend and activist, relieved because 
dementia began taking away Yvonne's memories, motor skills, ability to 
speak, eat and even drink water.

Yvonne's amazing life started in England in 1946. As a teenager, she spent 
time living on the streets, under bridges, and abandoned buildings with 
other teenage runaways, including a group of "ban the bomb" kids who 
introduced her to the nuclear disarmament movement. Once in America she 
married a man whose mother-in-law, Pat Hollingsworth, was a fierce 
feminist and member of the Women's International League for Peace and 
Freedom, and the two became inseparable.

I met Yvonne in 1991 during the "Gulf War" when she would come to protests 
with her dog Mischief wearing a t-shirt that said "Peace Dog" on it. She 
was among the dozen people who founded Peace and Justice Works (as 
Portland Peaceworks) in 1992.

In the early half of the 1990s as a crisis brewed in Yugoslavia, she began 
making peace journeys there to help bring aid to women, children and 
animals. She was the driving force behind PJW's Sarajevo Peace Center 
affinity group, dedicated to supporting Yvonne's American reports-back 
about her various trips overseas.

In 1999 when the NATO war on Yugoslavia raged, Yvonne made her last trip 
there, returning with a rare brain disorder. She ended up in a nursing 
home, and was told that people do not recover from Central Pontine 
Myelinolysis. She complained about feeling locked up and some of her 
friends "sprung her" from the home and got her back with her two cats and 
Mischief where she remarkably recovered. The only trace of the disorder 
was reflected in her occasional forgetfulness which would provoke Yvonne 
to remind people "I have a brain injury."

One of Yvonne's passions was to end violence against women. This was 
rooted in her personal experience of violence and her time on the streets. 
She brought a national project called the Clothesline Project to Portland, 
where survivors wrote messages on t-shirts to affirm their strength and 
sometimes confront their abusers through art. The project was often part 
of the Peace and Justice Fair that PJW held in the 1990s, as well as 
International Women's Day celebrations and events around the region.

Among her other work teaching kids that "hands are not for hurting," 
Yvonne launched and coordinated a neighborhood level peace camp for 
children in NE Portland.

Her work with women and children continued in the 2000s. She worked 
with the Los Lomas Project, helping children and families eking out a 
living on a garbage dump just outside Lima, Peru. It was there she found 
Cholito, the runt dog of a litter living in a hole in the ground, and 
somehow managed to get him back to the US in 2007. Cholito lived 
with Yvonne up until she moved into memory care in 2015. (Mischief had 
died in 2003.)

Yvonne sang at many of our planned events and often spontaneously during 
conversations or meetings. Much of the time it was as part of a duo with 
Mary Rose, known as Simmons Rose.

She was on PJW's board of directors for many years and only stopped
participating as she became less active generally.

Yvonne was also a key part of Flying Focus Video Collective. It's 
interesting that her memory care home spoke of Yvonne's impending death 
this week as "transitioning" as it came at the same time Flying Focus 
transitioned into PJW. She recorded videos of her trips in Yugoslavia and 
Peru, as well as a number of international actions or conferences she went 
to in Europe, Cuba, and in the US. While not an editor herself, Flying 
Focus members had her input to create and produce around 25 programs.

Yvonne's name is etched into the "Walk of Heroines" at Portland State 
University, near Hoffman Hall. The last PJW event Yvonne attended was our 
"Mother of All Protests" held at that site in 2017 opposing the US use of 
the "Mother of All Bombs" in Afghanistan.

She was featured in the Oregonian as "Woman of the Year" for her work 
bringing humanitarian aid to Yugoslavia.

We will miss her off-beat sense of humor, songs and caring ways.

When a memorial is planned we will share the information, it could be a 
while given the current resurgence of COVID.

dan handelman
peace and justice works

PS many thanks to Yvonne's close friend and another former PJW board 
member Desiree Hellegers for contributing to this email.

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