By Scott Schmidley Sixty-year-old Ron Simpson along with his wife Lorraine, 57, began their service at noon on a cold Northland Sunday before brunch at the Union Gospel Mission food shelter in downtown Duluth.
For 42 years, through prayer and song, the duo has been delivering Sunday ministry to organizations in need. “We try not to stick to just one genre. But it always ends up coming out with a little country flavor,” Ron said with a laugh. Lorraine nodded in agreement beneath a nest of graying hair.
For a crowd of about 15 people that day, Ron spoke not about finding God, but about letting God find you. The service was a conversation—the Simpson’s services typically are—with Ron responding to interjections and questions from the crowd.
No offering was taken at their service. There were no church bells, founts or tall white candles, only the Simpsons and their hymnals in the dining area at the food shelter.
They both play guitar. Ron sings melody, Lorraine sings harmony and together they provide the city of Duluth with the spirit of Christianity.
Before their paths of love, God, music and laughter collided, Ron and Lorraine sang together in their high school choir.
According to Lorraine, Ron was a little on the huskier side growing up, but she didn’t mind. As farm kids they grew up in the same town, Carlton, Minn.—Lorraine from the South of town and Ron from the West. They always knew of one another, but not until later did they begin to know each other intimately.
They started to date, and as time passed, they fell in love.
On the evening of Oct. 4, 1969, an eager Ronald Simpson proposed on one knee to Lorraine Goldsmith after a cousin’s wedding reception in a chilly Duluth park. Lorraine was just 16 years old.
“My mother was not happy,” Lorraine said with a chuckle and a slow shake of her head. “My grandma was all for it, but not my mother.”
By law, Ron and Lorraine were required to get the signatures of her parents because Lorraine was not of legal age to be wed. Her parents eventually consented.
Ron joined the Air Force shortly after the proposal, and they were married in October of 1970.
Throughout his military career, Ron was constantly being stationed in different locations around the country.
“’Don’t bring your wife,’ they always told us,” Ron said. But Lorraine would always come with, too stubborn in love not to.
They raised five children together while Ron was in the military, never staying in one spot for too long before shipping off to another.
“You gotta be tough to be a military wife,” Lorraine said. “But you do it because you love your spouse, and you love your country.”
Throughout their travels, Ron and Lorraine continued to worship Christ and play music together. “We bloomed wherever we were planted,” Ron said.
Lorraine was raised in the church, unlike Ron, who didn’t find religion until after a brother’s fatal accident when Ron was eight. He was baptized at 19, after he met Lorraine and has been practicing Christianity ever since.
A sturdy collection of around 11 stringed instruments make up what the Simpson’s now use for bringing ministry to the Duluth community. Ron’s favorite is a Japanese-made acoustic Epiphone that he’s had for over 30 years. They’ve tried to retire it but can’t seem to put it down.
Many of their Sunday services are at nursing homes, where Ron and Lorraine always take a moment to recognize the veterans and the wives as well. They agreed that one of the most rewarding parts of their nursing home services is handing out percussion instruments to the residents, allowing them to join the song.
At the start of the Feb. 7 service, with a big smile Lorraine let out a slow laugh as Ron began to play a familiar song. Over the steady chords of Ron’s Epiphone, together they sang, “I’ll fly away oh’ glory, I’ll fly away.”
Their 39th wedding anniversary is this October.