Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In loving memory of Herman Simon

He would have turned 100 yesterday. He did make it to 97 - in good health, marbles intact, with his lovely wife and family by his side.

They came through Ellis Island: the family's Union City store
Herman Simon was born on February 25, 1913, the eldest son of immigrants who arrived in the United States via Ellis Island. He was raised in Union City, New Jersey along with Raymond (Dad!), Morris and kid sister Lillian above the Simon haberdashery. 

His inauspicious beginnings formed the content of his character and his lifelong work. He grew up during the Great Depression in cramped, modest quarters. He realized early on that he had a way of connecting with and helping others, and had that special ability to ignore those who told him something couldn't be done. He liked to root for the underdog, because often he was the underdog.

Canoeing on Bullet Pond, hoping to catch dinner
As a camp counselor (which is how he met my amazing Aunt Yvette), he was a natural leader. Later, as a camp owner and international travel guide, he was a natural leader. As a school administrator in a vast and complicated system, he was a natural leader. As a tireless advocate for the elimination of acid rain in the Adirondacks, he was a natural leader.

I cannot adequately express the difference this great, larger-than-life man made in the lives of so many thousands of people. He never knew a stranger. He inspired others, giving them the courage to do what they previously thought was impossible. 
Nearly 100, and still a handsome devil
To me, he was so much more than an uncle. He was a lifelong mentor. We were lucky enough to spend lots of time with Hermey and Yvette, soaking in the beauty of the Adirondacks during summer visits to their quirky old home in Schroon Lake and catching my first fish. In the fall and winter, we'd head to their A-frame in the woods of New City for Thanksgiving gatherings, day trips to the city for Broadway shows, and afternoons of skating on the frozen pond. Then, there was the delicious simplicity of sunsets enjoyed from their balcony in Pompano Beach.   
About to depart for a night at the opera

Amidst the jumble of the many shared adventures of concerts, plays, hikes, swims, cooking marathons and big parties, I like to sift out the quiet moments. Those profound insights, advice, ideas, wisdom and stories Uncle Hermey would share when we were taking in a sunset from the balcony, or the murmur of bullfrogs from the gazebo overlooking the pond. 

When Herman Simon left us in the summer of 2010, a star went dark in the sky, creating a void in the lives he touched. He accomplished so much, had an extraordinary and loving 70-plus year marriage, traveled the globe with Aunt Yvette, and left the world a better place. But I still miss him. Aunt Yvette is wiser than I am, though - she smiles and says, "We did it all! That's what matters."

It comforts me to know that I will always carry a part of him in my heart. I hope I'll always be able to tap into that part of my heart when I want to do something good, generous or impossible. Love and miss you, Uncle Hermey! Here's to your 100th birthday! 

Phone time with Yvette, Hermey and Dad

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1 comment:

  1. I knew from the memorabilia that this was a special man and family. We just had the pleasure of staying in the "cabin in the woods" with all of the family and we had a spectacular time. We could feel the love and memories. By chance I googled your uncles name and Schroon Lake and came across this post. Such a beautiful birthday tribute.
    Stephenie Jones
    Relation to Iveson family


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