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.