Effects of wildfire smoke claim life of wild horse heroine

Laura Simpson with wild mare Rosie.
Laura Simpson with a wild mare named ‘Rosie’ … the ‘love’ is obvious.

Bill Simpson pays tribute to his wife and partner in Wild Horse Ranch, longtime equine advocate Laura Jean Simpson (1955-2019).

After a courageous 10-month battle, Laura J. Simpson passed in the early hours of June 6, fighting for life and breath. Our prayers and positive energy now can be the wind of love lifting her to the heavens.

I was so very privileged to have Laura as my precious friend and wife for nearly 47 years. The monumental loss of her presence in my life and those who knew her is now upon us like the tip of an iceberg. Laura was filled with love, which was evidenced by the grace that readily flowed from her life like a well-spring of pure water. She was a blessing to everyone who met her. Laura was a loving daughter, a mother, a sister, grandmother of five and a friend of wild horses.

Shortly after midnight on June 6, a noble soul traveled on-high when my earth-bound angel passed into the mighty hand of the Lord. I was there holding her hand and talking to her as she was in crisis due to the neurological disease that was gravely complicated by aspiration pneumonia. After displaying uncommon valor in her stewardship of the local wild horses in the face of a terrifying wildfire, Laura was exposed to the little-known toxins in the wildfire smoke that filled the skies of northern California during the Klamathon Fire in July 2018. Laura was made ill and was subsequently hospitalized in Portland, Oregon on September 4. 2018.

Laura Simpson (1972)

By early June 2019, Laura’s team of consulting physicians and caregivers strongly recommended proactive hospice care due to Laura’s dire condition, which even after many months of evaluations, tests and procedures by America’s leading expert medical doctors (several were professors of neurology) rendered no diagnosis or prognosis. Laura was bravely sailing uncharted waters.

The ordeal that Laura endured would have taken the life out of most strong men in a matter of a few months, according to most caregivers. And even at the end, she held on against all odds until all of her immediate family could visit her from across America. She just wouldn’t give up until she could see our children, grandchildren and some of her close friends.

Even nearing what she knew was a certain end, she offered smiles as the people she loved appeared in her room at the care facility, as she did with regularity with all her caregivers. In fact, many of the staff at the facility who loved Laura and spent time crying as they walked the halls.

Even though it’s somewhat unorthodox, I believe that a greater power was at work in all of this and that Laura had to suffer hell to get to heaven and was called by God for an important purpose that both Laura and I believe is related to saving America’s wild horses, wildlife and forests, which Laura spoke of extensively to me and others. Her love of all creation was quietly evidenced by her own actions, not words.

View from across Iron Gate Lake as the wildfire approached the Simpson ranch on July 6, 2018.
The devastating Klamathon Fire (July 2018). © Bill Simpson

As our daughter Ciara and I caressed Laura’s disease-ravaged body and looked into her eyes during her final moments, I sensed something very powerful and peaceful come over me; it was Laura, and as is her manner and custom, she comforted my pain.

Amazingly, Laura’s heart kept beating for more than five minutes after her lungs gave out and her respiration ceased. This I attribute to the power from all the love that filled her heart.

Laura lived a Christ-like life and demonstrated the virtues of courage, honor, compassion, loyalty, honesty, grace, humility, empathy, charity, respect and forgiveness; she was always a ‘peacemaker’ – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” ~ Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

Laura Simpson getting a hug from a mamma-mare and her filly. 
Laura Simpson getting a hug from a mare and her filly. © Bill Simpson

Laura was generous to a fault and freely gave time to many charitable organizations and efforts. In past decades she regularly read stories and fed the elderly people at the assisted living facility in Oregon City. Laura worked tirelessly to obtain donations of food for the hungry and helped pack food boxes for struggling families with children. Every December she worked with the Salvation Army to obtain toys for donation to children suffering from severe socioeconomic conditions.

Nevertheless, Laura’s life is storied:

Among many amazing adventures; Laura and I sailed together over 50,000 ocean miles, including a mid-winter voyage from Ventura, California to the Columbia River, encountering a full gale with 35-foot seas en route. In 2001, Laura set a world and national record in the women’s bench-press. And in 2014, Laura and I took-up an off-grid lifestyle in the Soda Mountain wilderness living among wild horses, sharing life and breath with them.

But with Laura’s bodily death came victory over the disease, which no longer had a grip on her bright spirit. Over the span of a couple of hours, I witnessed, as did the nurses who loved her, a change in her appearance as her pre-disease beauty was restored. Standing over her, it seemed that if she was tapped on the shoulder, she’d snap out of a daydream. As I stared into her blue eyes, I felt unexpected tranquility enveloping my heart and a deep feeling of pure love; it was healing unto me.

Laura Simpson riding at the Simpson Ranch, in about 1972.
Laura Simpson riding at the Simpson Ranch, in about 1972.

Words cannot properly describe Laura, music comes closer. She made this world and everyone she touched a little better, in some cases, a lot better.

Please consider supporting Wild Horse Fire Brigade (www.WHFB.us) by writing and calling your legislators asking them to begin steps to implementing a large-scale test of the plan.

It will be very hard without Laura on the ground at Wild Horse Ranch, but we must carry on the advocacy for the plan that she inspired.

Thank you!

William E. Simpson

William Simpson is the author of Dark Stallions - Legend of the Centaurians, proceeds from which go towards supporting wild and domestic horse rescue and sanctuary. » Read Bill's profile

12 thoughts on “Effects of wildfire smoke claim life of wild horse heroine

  • June 14, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    What a lovely tribute to your wife, and what a legacy she has left behind. I cannot imagine this huge loss, and I only pray that you continue to feel her presence, her spirit, and her love. God bless you Bill, and please contact me at Dreamchaser PMU Rescue if I can be of any help to you in your endeavors.
    Susan N Thompson

  • June 15, 2019 at 11:43 am

    SoSo Beautifully Written & Heartouching ❤️ … I’ve Stumbled On This Page Through FaceBook , I’m Lost for Words … I’m Very Very Sorry , What An Amazing Loving Soul ❤️ … “ Rest In Peace ❤️

  • June 16, 2019 at 10:59 am

    Lovely tribute, Bill, to a very special part of your life. You both had the privilege of sharing so much and that goodness can never be lost. If life is eternal as I hope it is, Laura’s legacy will live on to benefit many because of her authenticity and love for the wild horse. She gave her all. Life throws us some nasty curves but I know that because of her friendship and love, you will continue on your path with strength and courage. Many friends will be there to encourage you, and her generosity of life will uplift you and push you on because you will always remember. Love to you!!!

  • June 16, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    do you know what the toxins were in the smoke? and i truly hope there is a way to help from spirit to turn things around on earth. and hope she is working on it.

    • August 7, 2019 at 8:57 am

      Hoping it wasn’t poison oak. When wild fires burn, I would have to leave the area. So suseptable I got it on my shoulder when they slash burned a feild by our house. The doctor said I was lucky I didn’t inhail the smoke, because the oil does travel in the smoke. My guess is the doctors would have known, if that we’re the case. Just wondering.

  • June 17, 2019 at 8:12 am

    Hoping Laura helps guide us all on how to continue her mission. I read this with such gratitude and admiration for a life well lived and a partner left saddened yet at peace. I look forward to meeting you soon and carrying on what Laura gave her life to preserve. Debra Hamilton.

  • June 19, 2019 at 11:22 am

    I can’t explain the emotions right now Bill. I feel wrong for not being there. Selfish, caught up in myself and doings down south. I hear in my head, you, “Here’s Laurie,” as you held the phone for her to talk to me. We talked, a good conversation, and told each other “I love you.” Just as I hear your words, “Here’s Laurie,” I hear her, “I love you Roland.” I’m crushed, selfishly as I write, thinking of her passing. The brightest of light and joy, Mother, Grandmother, Wife, Laura your best friend and lover, who’s last name is Simpson.

    Laura Jean Simpson (1955-2019,) RIP, your loving soul. I miss you, love you, and I’m grateful to have shared a small part in your life, I think of you, I think of no bigger heart. God is good, we will meet again..

  • July 11, 2019 at 9:34 am

    Such a wonderful tribute to your Wife! She will be so missed!

    • November 8, 2019 at 12:07 pm

      Your wife will always be a hero to EVERY horse advocate! If we do not continue her work,the next generation will not know what a wild horse is! I live in Gardnerville NV,where they have already removed all but 89 of our herd. Come visit &see what we are doing to take on BLM! Our advocates spend yheir own money&time to save our famous fishsprings/pinenut herd! Woild love to give you the tour&pick your ear&hear MORE about your Lara!!!♡♡ godspeed! Meems

  • January 29, 2020 at 5:14 pm

    A beautiful tribute. Heart warming. Her body has died but she is still living.

  • February 11, 2020 at 6:45 am

    Laura was/is the MOST beautiful soul I’ve ever met in my life. Bill…I’m still in shock about Laura.
    The Lord must have had His protective hand in my being too ill to communicate with her during the fires. My anemia causing me serious problems and I got hopelessly locked out of my FaceBook account where we’d been chatting often….and then next thing I know, Larry giving me the horrible news.
    We have this Hope of seeing her again BUT…that doesn’t lesson the pain any.
    She really was beautiful INSIDE and OUT…I know you are devastated losing an Angel she was.
    Praying for you and her loved ones…keep in touch!

    • February 11, 2020 at 6:48 am

      BTW,,,,have been going thru old photos, videos….LOVE the one where we’re at Detroit Lake so long ago, 1995?…over 2 decades ago!….wow…I looked “okay”…but Laura…stunning and beautiful as always and NEVER ever a critical word out of her mouth!…wow…who does that? ANGELS!


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