RICHARD S. ‘DICK’ SIMON
1921 – 2020
Shy just six months of his 100 birthday, Richard (Dick) S. Simon, Phi (University of Michigan) 1943, has left us for the Chapter Eternal and the embrace of his beloved Nancy.
His moving on leaves us for a space of time in the sad, dark emptiness occasioned by the passing of a friend. Whatever other connections we might have enjoyed with Dick, it’s the loss of that rarest of gifts, his friendship, that leaves us most desolate now. But when the mourning’s done and our grief turns to fond memories, his good counsel and gratitude for his life, we’ll tell his story whenever he comes to mind. Each time we do we’ll place another stone upon his marker.
Everyone knew Dick Simon was good company. He would enter a room with a story to tell, a hearty laughter at one of yours and if circumstance called, a listening ear and an empathetic heart. He held the secret of mutual trust which endeared him to many: give much, ask for little, forget the bad, remember the good and when needed, be there, no excuses. To be in his circle was comforting, ennobling and fun.
He was a ‘happy warrior’ for whatever his cause or relationship. Even in tough times with hard choices to be made, Dick had the skill of making one and all feel as though they were in it together; a band of brothers once more into the breach and as much as a celebration of kinship as a struggle to turn the tide.
A marvelous head for many things yet never disconnected from his sensitivity. His feel for the heavy burdened rested near the surface of his being. Eager to forgive and forget, first in line to welcome home, he was the kind of person you hated to disappoint, but somehow knew he would be there for you anyway.
A wise and giving man, as much by his actions as his words. Even so Dick was not always an even tempered person; events and people could trigger his ire. Yet all knew his momentary flair was a sign of his passion for the thing at hand: his affection for friend and family and the institutions that defined his life. Despite his sometimes hot reactions, he was always a hail fellow well met and all around him were eager to toast his health.
A life time of service to his Pittsburgh, his Temple and particularly the local health community earned him the respect of friend and stranger, those he agreed with and some he did not. His war time service in the South Pacific brought him the regard of his comrades and the thanks of his countrymen.
Zeta Beta Tau was chief among his loves:
- International President
- President of the Zeta Beta Tau Foundation
- Most frequent winner of ZBT’s Sommer Award
- President of the North-American (NIC) Interfraternity Conference
- Recipient of the NIC’s Gold Medal
- Advisor for several chapters in the Pittsburgh area
- Father of another International President
- Grandfather of two ZBTs
More important than his titles and honors, however, was his steadfast commitment to our brotherhood in its darkest days. Future ZBTs yet unborn will walk in the light of our common bond because Dick stood on the wall when times were dangerous, many of our own left the field and much of our surrounding world wished us ill.
His life was full of meaning, honor and truth. Nature and learning and the instinct for servant leadership gave him the sure knowledge that the Brotherhood of all people was as simple as having each other’s back.
For a hundred years he lived and shared his example, his helping hand, his laughter, his wisdom. How lucky are we to have had him with us all this time? How vital it is that we don’t disappoint him?
No story of Dick Simon would be near complete without the love and friendship of his magnificent partner and wife, Nancy.
NANCY L. SIMON 1928 – 2015
For 60 years or more, Nancy Simon was a ZBT Sweetheart and no one ever carried the title with more affection from the Brotherhood. Wife, mother and twice grandmother of ZBTs, she was the Fraternity’s and the North-American Interfraternity Conference’s first lady during Dick Simon’s presidency of both organizations. Her long, personal connection with the Fraternity favored her with a unique perspective on our affairs and an abiding concern for our Good and Welfare. Though never formally seated in our councils, her wisdom was greatly valued and frequently solicited.
Nancy had a special regard and hospitality for ZBT’s young staffers who often spent months at a time on the road. Called field secretaries until the 90s and later Chapter Consultants, if she knew they were in Pittsburgh they were invited for a home cooked meal and an evening with the Simon family.
Nancy’s warm welcome, be it into her home or to a grand reception was her hallmark. She loved being in the midst of people and she seemed to draw strength from them. If you were meeting Nancy for the first time, she made you feel like family and if you were seeing her again, you instantly knew your pleasure was mutual. Always looking wonderful – just as though she stepped off the cover of a fashion magazine, her touch and tone were nevertheless casual and comfortable. Nothing was ever about her – it was always about you. Even so, her response could be disarmingly frank while leaving no doubt about its good intention.
She enjoyed having fun as evidenced by being the family’s only devotee of strong drink, rightly a source of some embarrassment to her more temperate men kin. A good joke was always welcomed and she saw no harm in a bit of time at the gaming venues. Her reputation at the Bridge table, both for her skill and her good humor was much admired. Nancy perfectly understood that if you want to go to the party, you need to be the party. There was never a ZBT who wasn’t proud to be her escort or delighted to be in her company.
Someone said of Nancy, “she’s not a lady who does lunch, she’s far too busy doing good works”. And so she did. Her volunteer activities included Women’s American ORT, Israel Bonds, Brandeis University, Ladies Hospital Aid Society, United Jewish Federation’s Women’s Board, Jewish Family and Children’s Services Resettlement Program, Temple board of trustees, chairman of the cemetery committee, Sisterhood board member.
Nancy’s work was not restricted to the board room. She was gifted at the art of embroidery. Her beautiful Torah mantels and banners remain treasures of her congregation.
ZBT’s success and good fortune over the years is not only of our own making. In the best and worst of times we’ve been cheered on from the sidelines by wives, partners, moms and dads and folks who believed in us and the concept we espouse. Their support has often been more than just good will. Time, money and tangible contributions have frequently resulted from their involvement. It would be hubris to think we don’t need them. Moreover, it would be ungrateful to forget them. In an essential way, they too are ZBT. So it was with Nancy Simon. As she was for 65 years with her beloved husband Dick, she was the Fraternity’s best friend.
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