PEI

Family and friends remember Jacob Simmons as outstanding athlete and person

Family and friends on the Island and beyond are remembering the life of Jacob (Jake) Simmons, a Mount Buchanan, P.E.I., man who was killed Friday. He was 27.

'Just the most beautiful person in a lot of ways'

Friends and family describe Simmons as a tall guy with a sometimes imposing presence, but always a kind and gentle individual. (Submitted by family)

Family and friends on the Island and beyond are remembering the life of Jacob (Jake) Simmons, a Mount Buchanan, P.E.I., man who died Friday. He was 27.

Simmons died after he was hit by a car while riding his bike on Route 210 in Kinross, P.E.I., police say. A 43-year-old Queens County woman faces charges of impaired driving causing death and failing to remain at the scene of an accident.

"This loss goes very deep in so many circles. Jake had so many friends," said his uncle Kevin Ryan.

"Every way you look at it, [it] comes back to the fact this was a wonderful man, a strong man, and we love him, and we'll continue to. And unfortunately he's gone."

Simmons' family said they don't want to focus on how he died, but rather on how he lived and will be remembered — as a gifted athlete, a star basketball player, soccer player, and runner, but also as a man committed to his friends and family. 

'A thinker, smart, intelligent, eloquent'

"He always had that kind smile, a little chuckle and found the humour in things," Kevin said. "It's just the pure loss of it all. That's how people in the family are looking at this, as opposed to any type of anger."

Simmons' uncles, Pat and Kevin Ryan (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Longtime friend Kyle Gillis describes Simmons as a really good friend and one of those people that others really gravitated to.

"The most colourful person in the room, very much the centre of everything. He was a leader. He was driven. At times, he was a strong personality, and I think that's worth mentioning," said Gillis.

"Just the most beautiful person in a lot of ways. Very talented, gifted. Multi-faceted. This guy was part of a chess club, he wasn't just an athlete. 

"He was a thinker, smart, intelligent, eloquent, that's the stuff we need to hold onto."

Gifted athlete

Simmons' family said he had track and field medals in relay and individual long distance, had provincial medals in wrestling, and played volleyball, basketball, soccer and rugby.  

"The guy's gifted, but also a hard-working athlete. He's pretty incredible," Gillis said.

It's just a shame that we weren't able to see his full story of what he would be able to achieve.— John Van Ekris

In his running, he supported Charity Miles, an app that sends a small donation to a non-profit organization for every mile you run, walk or bike, and was a big fan of Terry Fox.  

"I really do believe this was the best version of Jake maybe ever. He had really set some goals, fitness, he had lost 40 pounds and quit smoking," said Gillis. 

"It's really inspiring. I don't know anybody else who had to work so hard, and had done so successfully."

Simmons played soccer with older sister Janna in Belfast, P.E.I. (Carolyn Ryan)

His family said he was a member of the Knights of Columbus at St. Pius X Roman Catholic church and had recently donated to the Terry Fox Foundation for Cancer Research and the food bank because he believed strongly in giving back to his community.

Simmons was also a member of the P.E.I. Roadrunners Club and was recently named 2019 male Roadrunner of the Year. 

"He was just a pleasant guy to be around," said fellow roadrunner John Van Ekris.

He was a great role model for our kids, we enjoyed having him around.— Pat Ryan

"His story was just beginning in the running sport.  He was just getting a base and just getting to that next level, so that's the sadness."

Van Ekris said the roadrunner award is usually given out to someone that achieves a different level of accomplishment or performance, or overcomes adversity.  He said Simmons checked all those boxes and did all those things.

"It's just a shame that we weren't able to see his full story of what he would be able to achieve."

'Many people around the Island that cared for him'

In the last few years, Simmons had finished an agricultural management program and was preparing to eventually take over his family's farm.

Simmons was working with his father Kevin on the family farm as well as in the family drainage business, making bogland more suitable for farming. He is pictured here helping lay tile for drainage. (Kevin Simmons)

"It was great to have Jacob home," said his uncle Pat Ryan. "We were looking forward to him taking over the farm, and running that business on behalf of the family.

"He was a great role model for our kids, we enjoyed having him around."

With limits on funeral gatherings due to COVID-19, Simmons' uncles say the family is planning something smaller for now, but that whenever it's possible, the hope is to have a much bigger celebration of Simmons' life. 

"There's so many people around the Island that cared for him, and knew him really well," Pat said. 

"We want to have that opportunity for people to get together and have those moments. We need to grieve, support, and celebrate what Jacob's life meant to all of us."

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Shane Ross and Steve Bruce

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