- Associated Press - Saturday, November 1, 2014

WATSEKA, Ill. (AP) - At 91, Charles “Bob” Simcoe, of Watseka, has found a special niche. He’s now a monthly columnist for Advanced Materials & Processes Magazine, the international professional journal of the metallurgy industry.

Metallurgy is a science that deals with the nature and uses of metal.

It’s not a big-money deal, but it helped him get noticed by his alma mater, Purdue University. This year he was named one of the school’s Alumni of the Year.

In retrospect, Simcoe will tell you that the columnist gig is a product of one of the best things that happened to this U.S. Navy veteran. And it’s also the result of the worst things that happened to this father of six, grandfather of 10 and great-grandfather of 14.

The first turning point was the G.I. Bill that sent so many World War II vets to college.

“There was no way I was ever going to college,” he said. “I grew up in a little town near Albany (N.Y.). There were seven of us kids in the family. There was no way my dad could afford to send us to college.

“So, when I graduated from high school, I went to work at an aircraft plant, building planes for the Navy,” he said. “When the war came along, they put me in the Navy. And when they heard I worked in that factory, they sent me to welding school.”

So, when Simcoe finished his stint in the South Pacific, he parlayed that welding experience and made a career plan. He enrolled in a metallurgy program. He graduated in 1950, and took his first job with the company building the U.S.S. Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine. He moved into research roles after that, and he and his wife, Mary, raised a family of successful college graduates.

Retirement eventually led him to Watseka five years ago. He wanted to be closer to his daughter, Joyce Simutis.

“She was here to help me with Mary as the Alzheimer’s got worse,” he said, adding that Mary died 18 months ago.

“I had a terrible time of it. We had been married for 70 years,” he said. “But this writing has been good for me. It’s kept me busy. They first asked for monthly columns for 2014. Now, they asked if I can do another year. And I did some research and I can.”

In fact, he already has outlined his plan for those essays. He works on his research and his writing at his desk computer, and he takes his iPad with him to continue his writing when he goes to physical therapy appointments.

“I’m not all that high-tech. My son-in-law, Watseka attorney Frank Simutis, set these up. But I know how to use them pretty well. I got the iPad to download some music that Mary enjoyed. We used to Skype with the kids and grandkids.

“Since she’s been gone, I use it for research or writing some times, but I also use it to stream movies from my TiVo.”

Meanwhile, Simcoe continues his blogging at http://metals-history.blogspot.com. The editor at the metallurgy magazine first noticed his writing skill and his subject matter there. He has covered topics such as the first iron bridges in 18th Century England, the development of aluminum, and the pioneers of the industry.

“It just comes down to this: When you’re a history buff, and you’re 91 - and you’ve spent your whole life in this field - that’s a heckuva lot of background to draw on, isn’t it?”

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Source: The (Kankakee) Daily Journal, http://bit.ly/1nTQTQU

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Information from: The Daily Journal, http://www.daily-journal.com

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