Freedom Township’s Roger Simpson has received the Howard and Norma Weaver Memorial Award from The Washtenaw 100, an area charity that benefits the county’s law enforcement officers and firefighters, their families, and departments.
The Weaver Award recognizes local citizens who quietly go above and beyond in their support for the area’s emergency responders.
Simpson formally received the award at The Washtenaw 100’s Annual Dinner on October 21, 2021 at Travis Pointe Country Club
Roger Simpson was the long-time head of operations at Huron Valley Ambulance. Now retired, he has, in recent years, been instrumental in forming and running HART Huron Valley, a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization that provides on-scene food and support services to the region’s first responders at emergency sites.
Simpson helped found HART and is currently president of its board of trustees.
HART Huron Valley’s distinctive green and white vehicle is a retired HVA ambulance, re-outfitted for its current service in bringing basic conveniences such as water, snacks, and a place for rest to emergency responders.
“HART’s goal,” says Simpson, “is to reduce the responders’ fatigue and risk of injuries. We also brighten their spirits at these times of extreme stress.”
An Idea Takes Root and Spreads
Roger Simpson is honored to receive the Weaver Award. “But the real honor,” he says, “is to the responders who work so hard and risk their lives to keep us safe.”
The origin of HART Huron Valley dates to 2014 when Reverend Larry Courson, then the pastor of Peace Lutheran Church on Jackson Road in Ann Arbor, proposed the concept to Simpson, who was still managing HVA’s operations at the time.
Pastor Courson and his son Brent Courson had been impressed by Livingston County’s Disaster Assistance Response Team – DART – and envisioned a similar support service for Washtenaw. Simpson enthusiastically agreed. He rounded up the retired HVA ambulance and supervised its repurposing. Students at the Regional Career Technical Center in Ypsilanti Township did much of the vehicle’s rehab.
By March 2015, HART Huron Valley was on the road, supporting area responders when and where needed. The HART vehicle’s home is in Dexter’s main fire station.
“It’s actually our second truck,” says Simpson. “HVA recently donated another retired ambulance to succeed HART’s original.” The first truck, still entirely roadworthy, has been donated to Berrien Springs, in Southwest Michigan, for the start-up of that community’s own emergency responder support service.
Meanwhile, HVA’s sister EMS agency – Jackson Community Ambulance – has initiated J-DART to provide the same kinds of emergency responder support in Jackson and surrounding towns just west of here. HVA and JCA are both members of Emergent Health Partners, a nonprofit that owns and operates a total of six EMS agencies, serving over 1 million residents, around Southern Michigan.
A Lifetime in Emergency Response
Per Roger Simpson, HART’s most intensive single act of support to date came in March of last year, in Superior Township, where responders successfully persuaded a barricaded gunman to surrender peacefully after a 36-hour standoff.
In recent summers, HART has also provided support for Operation UNITED, an annual three-day operation in which the Detroit Police Department, federal authorities, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, and medical examiners team up to exhume remains of unnamed murder victims, long buried at a site on Detroit’s west side, and aim to link them to living family members through DNA analysis.
Roger Simpson was born and raised in Three Oaks, Michigan, close to Berrien Springs in the state’s southwest corner. At 19, he joined the Michigan State Police as a cadet. He then served as a state trooper for 13 years.
While with the State Police, Simpson began working part-time for HVA as a paramedic. In 1984, he joined HVA full-time, ultimately rising to HVA’s Vice President of Central Operations.
Simpson was with HVA for 33 years, retiring in January 2018. He and his wife now live in Freedom Township, near Pleasant Lake, in Western Washtenaw County.
About the Howard and Norma Weaver Memorial Award
The Washtenaw 100’s Weaver Award is named for Howard and Norma Weaver, the late founders of H&H Distributing, which, at its peak from the mid-1960s forward, had more than 30 trucks delivering pet supplies to retailers all around the region. When the Weavers sold their business after decades of success, they devoted themselves to philanthropy in Washtenaw County.
Norma Weaver, in particular, wished to honor her late father, Henry Clement, an Ann Arbor firefighter who lost his life in the line of duty during the 1960s. The Weavers bought a classic Ann Arbor fire truck to preserve in Clement’s memory. This initial purchase led to more, and in time the Weavers’ fire truck collection became the founding pieces of the renowned Michigan Firehouse Museum, on the edge of Depot Town in Ypsilanti.