Joseph Gravett Simpkins, Jr. was born on December 24, 1953, the third child to Gracie and Joe Simpkins. He is survived by his partner of 32 years Michael Fojtik; sisters, Peggy Galmish and Brenda Sneider; and countless nieces and nephews.
During his high school years Joe’s passion for trombone flourished. Mr. Jack Winn (Joe’s high school music instructor) was a major influence during this time and became a lifelong friend.
Joe was a graduate of VCU majoring in music education and then pursued his Master’s degree in school administration. Upon completion, he began his career as music director at Clover Hill High School where he made a lasting impact on their music program. He moved on to serve as an administrator in the Richmond area public school system and created his own business to become the executive director of Dixie Classic Festivals. Through Dixie Classic, Joe encouraged music education and band performance by providing competitions in various cities on the East Coast. It was also through Dixie and selecting judges, that Joe made cherished relationships with admired composers, arrangers and conductors.
In 1994, Joe found his niche when he became the conductor of the Richmond Pops Band, an all-volunteer organization serving the Richmond community. Under Joe’s leadership and direction, the Band grew to become a premier performance ensemble. Besides his work as the conductor, Joe became an integral part of the Pops from printing tickets, writing and answering letters to the community, arranging the venue, selecting performers, to writing narratives for the host. Joe developed special relationships with the Salvation Army and Military performing groups. He made a point of dedicating each and every concert to the military members who serve our country.
Perhaps the reason Joe was able to inspire the musical talents in others and make the Pops such a success was that he had innate teaching ability and a genuine interest in people. He values loyalty and possessed the rare gift of a kind heart. He was keenly interested in history, but it went beyond the textbook, to learn about the personal back-story of the struggles and accomplishments of the people he met. This often led him to help others who many might have seen as marginalized members of society. He also had the ability to look for the positive side of life and refused to dwell on bad memories. He had many loves and yet they were simple: spending time with family and friends, playing with his dogs Rusty and Angelo, pushing dirt with a bulldozer, telling a good joke and story, visiting Disneyworld and Las Vegas, adding plants for scenic viewing to his golf cart trail, designing websites and learning how to fix any home repair. Joe was extremely proud of his efforts with the Pops, but also of all he did with designing and building home. No tour was complete without the viewing of the computer closet and furnace room.
Joe was an extremely giving and unique individual. He will be missed by countless in the Richmond community, his musical colleagues, and family and friends. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to Richmond’s Pop Band, 3811 Cottrell Road, Richmond, VA 23234.
- Date & Time: April 13, 2022 (3:00 PM)
- Venue: Shepherd's United Methodist Church
- Location: 163 Fleets Mill Road Saint Stephens Church, VA 23148 - (Get Directions)
Richmond's Pop Band
- Address: 3811 Cottrell Road Richmond, VA 23234
- Website: https://richmondpops.com/Support/