There was a chill in the air and the forecast of light snow in the days ahead. But neither that nor Annette Simmons‘ in-recovery cough was going to prevent a special announcement from being made regarding Annette’s late husband, Harold C. Simmons, on Friday, January 12.
Even state politicos like Sen. Don Huffines and State Rep. Morgan Meyer with their staffs had arranged to be on hand for the occasion at Annette’s and Jerry Fronterhouse‘s home. Morgan, who’d just returned from a legal proceeding in New England, hadn’t let the big northeastern blizzard keep him from pulling up in his SUV in Simmons’ driveway.
The day had been a long time coming. While entrepreneur/philanthropist Harold had died in 2013, his legacy was continuing, thanks to his widow Annette and their blended family.
Before the “official” part of the event began, guests gathered in the home’s formal living room to chat. Morgan and Simmons’ daughter Amy Simmons Crafton were comparing notes about the new four-legged additions in their families. Amy and husband Joe Crafton had Grace, a four-month-old Golden Retriever, and Morgan had a four-month Retriever named Scout that had already had a run-in with the Meyers’ son, Asher.
The last to arrive was Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who was immediately welcomed by Annette.
Over on a table was the official paperwork signed in October that designated the section of Preston Road (aka State Highway 289) from Northwest Highway to Royal Lane as the Harold C. Simmons Memorial Highway, thanks to the Simmons family, Greg, Don and Morgan.
As the group assembled in the living room, the Simmons’ longtime friend Texas Tech University Chancellor Emeritus Kent Hance kicked things off, recalling Harold’s sense of humor. According to Kent, when Harold “called to congratulate me on becoming chancellor, I said, ‘I dreamed last night that you gave Texas Tech $100 million.’ Harold said, ‘You must have had a nightmare.’”
Next up was Don, who stood next to Greg and applauded Harold’s brilliance at entrepreneurship and patriotism. “He believed in America, in American exceptionalism, and in the great state of Texas,” Don said. “He loved the Republican Party … I don’t think we can find a better patriot—a [more] virtuous patriot—and Harold was that. The least we can do is honor him with a couple of signs on Preston Road.”
Don was followed by Morgan, who noted the late billionaire’s longstanding support of nonprofits. At the time of his death, Harold and Annette Simmons’ charitable contributions had provided many hundreds of millions of dollars to countless nonprofits, ranging from the Mineola Volunteer Fire Department to the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation. Just the year before his death, Harold personally gave away millions, including $50,000 to the Rayfield Wright Foundation, $60,000 to Hunger Busters, and more than $1 million to Buckner Children and Family Services.
After Don and Morgan spoke, Annette assembled the people who had supported the Simmonses through the years—including their drivers, security people, and house staff—to be formally recognized. Besides Joe and Amy—she had donated a kidney to Harold—also on hand were Harold’s daughter Lisa Simmons, Annette’s son Andy Fleck with Andy’s son Austin Fleck, and Harold’s longtime lawyer Don Glendenning.
With Annette seated next to him, Greg said that Harold would be remembered for “doing everything [he could] to protect the freedoms that have made America the greatest country in the world.”
With a twinkle in her eye and a mischievous smile, Annette looked at Greg and recalled a Dallas Cowboys football game where “you were visiting with [Harold]. I said to him, ‘What were you two talking about?’ And he said, ‘I just asked him how much he needed.’”
There were also small, personal memories of Harold. It seems, for example, that Harold’s sense of humor was not diminished after he had his kidney transplant, courtesy of Amy. Following the surgery, he gave Amy earrings and a necklace to commemorate their “relationship.” Every now and then Harold would tease her to wear his “kidney stones.”
The group then moved into the study for the unveiling of a prototype of the two signs that were being installed on Preston at that very moment. The room was dominated by a portrait of Harold at age 68 or so, and another of the Simmonses’ Springer Spaniel, Duke, which had been painted by their friend, former President George W. Bush.
Upon checking out the new sign proclaiming the Harold C. Simmons Memorial Highway, Don and Greg jokingly debated whether the color tended to be Aggie maroon.
Joe, looking at Greg, asked with a laugh whether the Simmons highway designation meant it’s “true that Amy cannot get a speeding ticket on the Harold Simmons Memorial Highway?” Retorted the governor in the same spirit: “Just wait until we add another three lanes on either side!”
With that, Annette and Jerry asked everyone to join them in a champagne toast to the naming of the highway.
Don then did a double presentation. First, he presented a framed photo of the signing of the legislative act designating the miles in Harold’s name. Then, a copy of Harold’s biography, titled “Golden Boy,” was presented to Greg. When Annette and Jerry realized that Greg had not read the book yet, a pen was produced and Annette personalized it for the governor.
After all the accolades and toasts had been completed, Jerry raised his glass one more time, this time to honor Annette, saying how her efforts to salute her late husband’s accomplishments were to be applauded. “She shaped his thinking, I’m sure,” Jerry said. “You all were a great team—probably one of the most powerful husband-and-wife teams in Texas.”
For more photos from the reception, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.