Mad River Union
TRINIDAD – Ned Simmons (1939-2011) had a smile that could light up the town of Trinidad. His art gallery, his service as a volunteer fireman, his tireless work on compiling the town's history, and his annual Cockeyed Florence Parade are all gifts he gave to the seaside village.
He left the gallery to the Trinidad Coastal Land Trust when he died, but he wanted the parade to die with him.
Simmons always led the Cockeyed Flo parade in his trademark top hat.
So when the holly tree outside his art gallery was in danger of being chopped down as a nuisance, his friends, inspired by artist Susan Morton, trimmed the giant tree into the shape of a top hat.
No one talked about cutting it down after that!
Jan West, his long time neighbor, started the ball rolling to get donations to light up the top hat tree for Christmas in 2014. Others contributed to the cost of the lights as well.
“The Chamber of Commerce gave us $300 to rent the cherrypicker the first year,” West said.
Recently West, her husband Jack, and Trinidad Art Gallery member J.D. Jeffries untangled the wires from the tree in order to have it lit for the holidays.
“J.D. is a former PG&E lineman,” West explained. “Without his help, we wouldn’t have been able to do it. It was a miracle.”
The top hat tree will glow every day and night from 3 p.m. until midnight, in memory of Simmons.
“Mr. Ned, our gentle giant is no more,” West said. “But his spirit, his art and his profound words will always be part of us. In this season of giving, let us remember Ned’s example of giving of ourselves, of our friendship, and our service to others. When you see the lights on Ned’s Top Hat Tree, think of Ned’s giving and the joy he expressed with his life.”