Since Carolyn and Charles Simpson moved to Garner in 1988, at least one of their children has attended Garner High School every year.
Their youngest, Colin, became the 11th of their 12 children to graduate from Garner last May. The school had educated 11 children in a single family in a time spanning five presidents. And, in a way, it’s still not done.
Principal Drew Cook approached Cherre Truelove to ask about the streak this fall. Truelove, formerly Cherre Simpson of the Class of 1992, had just enrolled her son Scott as a freshman, keeping the family’s chain unbroken with a new generation.
Cook and Truelove also went to high school together.
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“They’ve done a good job for our families,” Truelove said of Garner High. “My mother said, if you didn’t send your kids to the community schools, then they wouldn’t be that great. If everybody sent their kids to the community school, they were going to be good schools.”
Charles and Carolyn met at Forest High in Union County and attended N.C. State University together. Charles is an electrical engineer. Carolyn, a stay-at-home mother, earned a degree in psychology.
“Which comes in handy, I guess, when you have 12 kids,” Cherre said.
Each of their children’s names begin with “C.” Their oldest son, Chuck, graduated high school before they arrived in Garner. Not that Garner would feel cheated by the family, which belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“People say oh those Mormons have lots of kids,” Cherre, a former teacher who stepped back to raise her family, said. “But they didn’t grow up in the church, they joined at State. My mom always wanted to have 12 kids. Personality more so than religion determines how many kids you can handle.”
For an outsider, handling memorization of the names can be daunting enough: after Chuck, came CerahCherre, Cletus, Chad, Celeste, Crystal, Christian, Camillia, Candice, Cayler and Colin.
If educational and career outcomes provide any useful indication, they handled their family pretty well. The family collects degrees from UNC and N.C. State the way a Subaru collects bumper stickers. Two sons have dental practices, another is in medical school, and another is a structural engineer.
Daughters tend to start families, Cherre said, but aside from teaching, degrees in nursing, sports medicine, business and dental hygiene round out a diverse breadth of education, even with multiple children still making their way through college.
Back in high school, the family had an athletic streak. Cherre played volleyball and basketball. Garner tennis coach Joey Walls coached five Simpsons, Cherre said. The family produced a couple soccer players, too. In the arts, Cerah minored in piano at N.C. State, two other daughters performed in chorus and Christian played the lead in the school musical one year.
As for the Simpsons’ children’s families, most stay in the three-to-four-child range, though Celeste, sixth oldest, has eight kids. Truelove, with three kids, has the only family living in Garner though. She could extend the streak of direct Simpson descendants at Garner High 34 years; her youngest is in fourth grade.