Dorothy Simon, a homemaker who returned to her college studies after 30 years to graduate with highest honors and undertake a late career as a crisis counselor and therapist, died Sept. 21 of natural causes at her Silver Spring home. She was 97.
“I had the unusual pleasure of attending the University of Maryland campus at College Park with my mother,” said David Simon, the youngest of her three children. “We both graduated the same year, albeit she was summa cum laude and I was summa cum nothing. She was a far better student.”
But even before her degree, Simon had embarked on a late career as a crisis counselor at Alternative House, a residential facility serving runaway adolescents and their families in McLean, Va. She also saw clients for personal and marital therapy in her Silver Spring kitchen.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. as Dorothy Ligeti, she was raised in Williamsburg, The Rockaways, and The Bronx before graduating from James Madison High School in 1940. She then attended Hunter College for two semesters before leaving school to marry Bernard Simon, an NYU student she had met at a Catskill resort managed by her parents in the summer of 1939.
A journalism major, Simon was employed as publicist for Mills Music when they married in May 1942 and then was inducted in the U.S. Army three months later. While Bernard Simon served at Fort Hamilton’s New York Port of Embarkation, his wife worked for two years at the Brooklyn Navy Yard where she was involved in shipping material for the Normandy invasion in 1944.
After the war, the couple settled in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn and later in Far Rockaway as Bernard Simon pursued a career as a reporter for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and publicist for the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith.
In 1956, the family relocated to the Washington area when Simon was named the director of public relations for B’nai B’rith. They resided for forty years in Silver Spring and were longtime members of the Ohr Kodesh Synagogue in Chevy Chase.
But in the mid-1970s, when her youngest child was headed to high school, Simon returned to the academic pursuits she had abandoned three decades before, first taking classes at Montgomery College in Rockville and later transferring to the University of Maryland, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in general studies in 1983.
For four years in the late 1970s, she worked with adolescents and their families at Alternative House, a residential facility that guaranteed shelter to runaway minors while engaging their families in counseling that would either, on the recommendation of the therapist, return the minor to the home or provide for foster care services.
Simon also saw clients for personal or marital therapy in her home, using her kitchen as an office, a practice that began as a word-of-mouth enterprise stemming from her work at Alternative House. Upon the retirement of her husband, she ended her practice and moved to Leisure World in Olney in 1994.
Prior to her work at Alternative House, Simon worked for four years at the Black Student Fund, a Washington non-profit that worked to move promising students to scholarships at area private schools. In addition, Simon also worked for five years in the 1970s as the puzzlemaster for the National Jewish Monthly, creating double-acrostics on Jewish themes for the B’nai B’rith publication.
She is survived by two sons, Gary Simon, of Potomac, Md. and David Simon, of Baltimore, Md. as well as six grandchildren. Her daughter, Linda Simon Evans, died in 1990, while her husband of 68 years, Bernard Simon, died in 2010.
Due to the pandemic, a graveside service will be limited to family. An online memorial celebration will be scheduled at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations to Planned Parenthood of Maryland, P.O. Box 62757, Baltimore, Maryland or the Biden Victory Fund, P.O. Box 96663, Washington, D.C. 20077.
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So beautiful, David.
This is such a beautiful tribute. I had read it close to its original posting, but chose to reread it on Mother’s Day this year as I remembered my own mother. Thank you for this tribute.
A wonderful prayer and one I am turning to as I try to save my marriage. I have no other hope than to give it to God. Evangeline Guilbert Stearns
I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad to Covid this year. He was a native Baltimorean who enjoyed respected your work. Volunteered at Good Sam and worked his tail off for another 30 years after losing his arm to a stroke in the 80’s. Cheers to parents who fought the good fight to want the best for their family and community.
My condolences. Her story is inspiring and important, just like the stories you choose to tell in your work in books and film. ?
I think a bright star from a better generation has gone to a better place where they listen to Glen Miller and the like. We had a lot to learn from them, time, our only friend, and the friend we abuse so much.
David, you probably wont read this, but I am a masters student of screenwriting in the UK, and desperately want to interview you via a set of questions by email, or any other method – I have been accused of writing a writers statement in an uncannily similar style to yours.
Hello, David. I was a friend of Linda’s through middle school and college. We were in a girl’s club (ABG) during our middle teen years and through those times had many sleepovers at your home. Your mother was always so kind, easy to talk with and interested in us – as growing, young women. We always thought that Linda was so lucky to have her as a mom. Thinking warmly of them both.
Be well. Bonnie
Lovely words celebrating a long and loving life. May her memory grace your smiling heart with every forthcoming beat.
I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. Your obituary of her is certainly a loving tribute to her and shows what an accomplished woman she was. I didn’t realize that Bernard Simon was your father. I remember him as a journalist and PR pro and eventually succeeded him as head of public relations for B’nai B’rith in Washington. May the memory of your mother and your father be a blessing for you.
I cant begin to form the words that could soothe ur heart from this void u now feel. I do know that u were loved and had such a courageous mother who never stop excelling molding her the epitome of a mother. U were blessed to have had her… im sure alot of her being has shaped u to who u are today and that she was beyond proud of her son. There’s something about a mother’s love for her son. Do take time to find some me time during ur grieving don’t let nothing or no one rush u. No one is ever prepared to deal with losing a Mother but we all are guaranteed death. She was such a reward God has given u. I wish I could have experienced that kinda love for just one day…Be strong David my heart is with u.
Love you Neacey
the world is a colder darker place without her. dress warm, be well David there is work to be done.
May memories of the better times shared with your mother balm your sorrow.
A fitting tribute.
Sadly, when we live long enough, we are destined to become orphans and elders. May her voice and love remain strong within you, and your cihildren.
Sorry for your loss of this remarkable woman.
I remember a conversation I had with her a five years ago.
Strong woman – What a life! I know her memory will be a blessing to you and Gary. I’d like to “attend” the online memorial celebration.
Sorry for your loss, Mr. Simon.
After reading this, I’ve concluded that your mom was an awesome lady who raised wonderful children and was willing to help others in need of a loving and guiding hand through a rough time in their lives. Here’s hoping that if heaven exists, she, your dad, and your sister along with other relatives are talking and laughing with each other while keeping an eye on you and your family.
Her life and memory is a blessing. A roll model.
I am sorry for your loss.
A deeply lived and fully inhabited life!
My deepest sympathies. She seems to have been a remarkable woman.
So sorry for your loss, David. I’m sure you are thankful for the many years you had with her. What a productive life she had! Your obit brought tears to my eyes.
Well, now we know you got the good genes on both sides. That and the dinnertable conversation explains a lot. 🙂
My condolences. Your mother sounds like quite a “presence,” and not just in your life.
May her memory be a blessing. What a career! What a life!
What a brilliant lady, David.
Thoughts for you and your family.
My condolences David.
My sympathies to you and your family. I recently lost my father. Based on an admittedly quick assessment and calculation, your mother had about 20yrs on my dad. I hope they were all full and rich and brought her wisdom. And I hope all of your years with her will be remembered well and shared by you in ways both direct and indirect.
So sorry for your loss. May your mother’s memory be a blessing.
Condolences to you and your family, David. Your Mom’s work helping young people is a fabulous example for us all.
Hamakom y’nachem etchem b’toch sh’ar availai tziyon ee yerushalayim.
A purposeful life. Well done, Dorothy Simon.
A hell of a woman and a life well-lived.
My sincere condolences David. May she rest in peace.