A lifelong Californian, tenderhearted wife and mother, and passionate grassroots organizer, Jennifer Simi combined dedication to family, friends, community, and social justice into a merry whirlwind. "She led a life of service and compassion," the social action group, Women's March Napa Valley, said in a statement following the news that Jennifer, 53, had been killed in a car-train calamity in Fairfield on April 26. "She was a sister to so many, a sister with a generous heart and kind soul; (she was) a brilliant organizer."
In December 2016, Jennifer co-founded the Rise Up Napa movement, whose mission statement mirrored her credo: "We believe that now more than ever we need to stand up for each other, protect our communities and stand against injustices and intolerance." Jennifer worked with at-risk families and children at North Bay Community, and was driving to a client's home in Fairfield at the time of the accident.
A fit blonde animal-loving and charismatic dynamo, Jennifer made time to support causes ranging from the December 2020 Georgia Senate race to humanitarian aid for Ukraine. Friends described her as a "comrade-in-arms" who poured energy into protecting reproductive rights with Planned Parenthood, voter mobilization drives with Indivisible, and lobbying with the anti-gun-violence group, Moms Demand Action. At home in Napa, Jennifer was all-in for every birthday, school event, extracurricular activity, and family holiday, coordinating goofy Halloween costumes and organizing far-flung vacation adventures, while urging her two children towards both academic excellence and social responsibility.
Jennifer was born in San Jose on November 30, 1969, to Ellen Sullivan (Arrington) and Bernerd Buckley. In 1973, the family relocated to Sonoma County, where Jennifer's two sisters, Megan and Shannon, were born. She attended Forestville Elementary School and El Molino High School, graduating in 1987. Alex Simi was a classmate; they married five years after graduation, and have been together for 34 years. They moved to Ukiah, where Alex worked as a Firefighter for Ukiah Fire Department and Jennifer went to college. In 1998, she graduated from Sonoma State with a BA in Psychology. In 1999, they moved to Santa Cruz, where Alex attended the CalFire Academy and Jennifer completed a Master's of Social Work at San Francisco State University. In 1999, Alex transferred to the San Ramon Fire Department, where he serves today as Fire Captain, and the family bought a house in Napa County. Their daughter, Jordan, was born in 2003, and their son, Zachary, in 2005. Jordan is a sophomore at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta and Zachary is a senior at Vintage High School, heading to the University of Nevada in Reno this Fall.
In addition to her husband and children, Jennifer leaves her parents, Bernerd Buckley of St. Helena, and Ellen Sullivan of Santa Rosa; Stepfather Harry Sullivan and proceeded in death by her stepmother, Carla Buckley; sisters: Megan Buckley Cutting of Hidden Valley Lake (Brandon) and Shannon Liniak of Napa (David); her step-brothers: Ian Sullivan (Alexa), Michael McCreary (Lauren), and Patrick Linehan (Elizabeth); and two nieces and ten nephews.
"She adored life and lived it to the fullest, she was adventurous, competitive, organized, intelligent, and so beautiful. She loved ferociously, deeply, and genuinely," said Jordan, 19, her mother's biggest fan and lookalike. "Her children and her family meant everything to her. She leaves behind cherished friends who span the globe. She left every person she met a better human being."
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