Late Ridgefield teen Nia Simpson remembered as 'supportive' friend with ' tenacious' spirit

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

RIDGEFIELD — Whenever Natalia Feliciano thinks of her late friend and lacrosse teammate Nia Simpson, she smiles.

"She was really just the sweetest person," said Natalia, 15, who played defense on the Ridgefield girls lacrosse team with Simpson. 

Simpson, a Ridgefield High School junior who had just turned 16, died Thursday. She battled "a brief, undiagnosed illness that baffled the minds of doctors at Yale Children's Hospital," according to her obituary. A fundraising page created Sunday in her honor called the “Nia Hailey Simpson Memorial Fund that raised, raised more than $39,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.

Funds raised from the page will be used to establish a scholarship in Simpson's memory at Ridgefield High School, accelerate medical research for her condition and create a planting in the community as a living memory for her.

Her mother, Safiya Simpson, said her family truly believes Nia had a "bigger purpose" than the world could offer her.

"Nia means purpose in Swahili. She lived up to her name every day through her tenacious and ambitious spirit that she poured into every activity she took on," Simpson said. "Nia was dedicated to doing her best in school and earned high honors every semester. Nia was honored to serve on Ridgefield High School student government and to have been reelected as the 2024 class treasurer for the past three year's student government."

In an email to the Ridgefield school community Friday, superintendent Susie Da Silva wrote, "Nia Simpson was a beloved part of our community — friend, three-season athlete, and student government member. ... To Nia’s family and friends, I extend my deepest condolences. You are with RPS’ thoughts and prayers. We are reminded how fleeting time can be, Nia will forever be remembered. ... We are always here for you."

In an email sent by Ridgefield High School Principal Jacob Greenwood on Friday, he wrote Nia Simpson “touched innumerable lives with her kind spirit, gentle personality, and curious mind, and we cannot begin to express how much she will be missed by everyone at RHS.”

Counselors will be available at the high school for students and staff this week.

Nia Simpson was an athlete who played volleyball, lacrosse, and ice hockey, and was also involved in student government. 

Natalia said her friend was always very upbeat — always singing or laughing and would randomly break out in song.

"At practice, she would always just sing Ariana Grande randomly and my team thought that was so funny," Natalia said. "She was just always smiling."

"On defense, no matter how our team was doing, she was just always happy," Natalia said. 

Lilybeth Coury, 16, a neighbors of Nia Simpson and has known her since the second grade, said she was a "sweet and fantastic girl who always had my back."

She added Nia Simpson was "very supportive" when her family was going through rough time. 

"She would always be there for me and come over and hang out and I could trust her in everything," she said. 

Shereen Rawlins, of Ridgefield, whose family has known Nia Simpson for about 10 years, said she was a role model and big sister to her daughter Lauren Rawlins, 13. 

"Lauren always looked up to her, always tried to be like her," Shereen Rawlins said. "My daughter started playing lacrosse because Nia played. Nia always talked to her about it and how the game worked. She'd show her how to shoot in her backyard sometimes. ... It's a big loss."

 Safiya Simpson said her daughter enjoyed watching and playing sports and being on a team.

"Nia was kind to everyone she encountered and always tried to motivate others any way she can — that's the mindset she’s always had her entire life," Simpson said. 

She added her daughter loved baking cakes for everyone’s birthday, especially for her big brother, Jalen.

"She never would buy birthday cards from the store, she enjoyed creating beautiful handmade cards because she believed they were more special because it was straight from her heart," Simpson said.  "She will be missed tremendously in our lives and so many others, but she left a lot of beautiful memories we all will cherish forever."

There will be a viewing at Kane Funeral Home, 25 Catoonah St. from 3 to 7 p.m. Oct. 15 and a service at St Stephen's Episcopal Church, 353 Main St. at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 16.