As Memorial Day is coming, I thought that this would be a good time to remember those who have gone before us. My friend Ellen's father recently passed away. I had known him as a cheerful man who loved music and his large family. He and his wife Regina were blessed with eleven children.
I asked Ellen to tell me more about her father. This is what she told me.
Salem J. Simon was born on October 1, 1923, the son of Lebanese immigrants. He was one of ten children. As a small child, he spoke only Arabic in the family's Western New York home. His father was an itinerant salesman, and the family was never well off. When Salem went to school, he learned to speak English. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was sent to various parts of Asia. He also spent some time in India, where he met a young Albanian nun. At the time, she was establishing her ministry among the poorest of the poor. Her name was Sister Teresa. Eventually, she would become well-known as Mother Teresa. Ellen said that her father was horrified by the abject poverty of the people of India. This experience, she said, shaped her father's life. He was always kind to homeless people on the street and never rejected anyone. Ellen reported that her father's kindness extended to shy young ladies at dances. He asked the young ladies who were sitting by themselves for at least one dance so that they would have the experience of dancing with a gentleman.
Salem earned a college degree and then went on to law school in New York City. He married the former Regina Clements, and the couple had their first child, Mariam, in 1950. Eventually, Salem returned to Western New York, where he was employed by Niagara Mohawk, first in the Personnel Department and later in the Law Department. He spent his entire working career as a corporate lawyer with Niagara Mohawk.
The Simons moved out of their first Buffalo house after they "filled it up." They moved to a larger house in North Buffalo. They raised their family there, attending a neighborhood church and sending their children to public school. Often the family sang together, in four parts, with some of the children playing piano and guitar.
After a long career with Niagara Mohawk, Salem retired. He and Regina moved to Florida, where they enjoyed their retirement. They spent their summers in Western New York and were thrilled to greet new grandchildren as they were born. Regina Simon knitted mittens for each of the grandchildren every Christmas until she passed away in 2002.
Salem Simon died peacefully, surrounded by his children. He was eighty-two years old.