Iris Simmons MBE

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Iris Simmons MBE

Rosemary Simmons Memorial Housing Association regrettably announces the sad passing of its founder and Life President, Iris Simmons MBE. The philanthropist and former Mayor of Elmbridge passed away on Saturday 10 August at the age of 92.

Whilst Rosemary Simmons Memorial Housing Association, based in Esher, now provides affordable housing for hundreds of people across Surrey, the story of the housing association is part of the story of Iris Simmons, who worked tirelessly for decades to help local people.

In 1959 Iris and her husband, Roger, an architect, set up the housing association as part of the couple’s wish to mark the tragic death of their daughter Rosemary. With elderly friends living in inappropriate and poor accommodation, Iris and Roger wanted to help others in a similar position, so bought a house in Copsem Lane, Esher and turned it into twenty homes for older people. Roger was given a Ministry of Housing award for the scheme and its success led to them repeating the process, and with the support of friends, who all worked voluntarily, the organisation grew.

Throughout the fifty four years since the association was established, Iris always maintained her hands-on approach to her role and was on first name terms with many of the residents. Paul Yates Chief Executive for Rosemary Simmons said, “Iris, like her late husband Roger, made a monumental contribution to the achievements of this housing association. Even in her later years, Iris always took a very close personal interest in the on-going work of the association and especially in the welfare of residents. Iris attended our most recent Board meeting on 30 July and was, as ever, in typically good spirits and keen to hear all the latest news. Everyone at the association offers their sincerest condolences to Iris’s family and her many friends”.

Actively involved in the local community and with many good causes, Iris was awarded the MBE in 1975 for her services to the elderly and was also made a Freeman of the City of London. Iris was a councillor for 12 years and elected Mayor of Elmbridge in 1989. Following which, she busied herself organising campaigns for local councillors and MPs and the Inner Wheel Club in Esher. She was also involved with the Esher branch of the Princess Alice Hospice, governor at an Esher school, involved in the Elmbridge Twinning Guild and was formerly the chair of the local branch of the mental health charity MIND.

Never one to dwell on the personal tragedy that had befallen her, with the loss of two children at a young age and the death of husband Roger in 1975, aged just 54. Iris was known and loved by many and an inspiration to many more.  

“We haven’t been the luckiest at times, but like many others you have to grab life by the throat and live it. You have to be kept busy when you have adversity, otherwise you wouldn’t be sane. That’s what makes life go by. It keeps you occupied and, hopefully, reasonably useful.”  Iris Muriel Simmons MBE, 1921 – 2013.