Simon died peacefully at his home in Reston. He was 101.
An outpouring of support and condolences flooded RestonNow comments, Twitter and Facebook, with news of his passing picked up on Facebook’s national trends. Multiple people stopped by his statue on Tuesday morning to take pictures of the statue, say their goodbyes and share memories of seeing Simon around Lake Anne Plaza and Reston.
“I think the first time I spoke to him, he was riding a bicycle — an indoor bicycle at Sport and Health [gym] in Reston,” said Nancy Busse, a Reston resident since 1970.
Simon cared about the community and she enjoyed seeing him walking around the plaza, Busse said.
“He still was invested in this community right up until he died,” she said. “Pretty extraordinary.
Other Reston residents agreed, many also commenting on how he lived a good 101 years.
“He gave me a good life,” said one Reston resident who has lived in the area since 1980.
Flowers began appearing on Simon’s statue last night, despite the evening rain. Among the flowers were cards for his family, candles and a martini glass from Mayor of Herndon Lisa Merkel.
“I brought him a martini glass with flowers because he was known for his martinis,” Merkel said. “He said the secret of life is one martini a night.”
Merkel first met Simon after being elected mayor of Herndon. Simon and Merkel would meet for breakfast and were working on on a project together when he died, she said.
“The first time we got breakfast, he wanted to take me to Lake Anne Plaza, and we walked all around and he told me about the whole process. It was like walking around with a legend,” Merkel said.
The news of Simon’s death spread quickly yesterday, with articles appearing in local and national papers, including the Washington Post and New York Times. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe took to Twitter to share his condolences.
“Saddened by the passing of Reston founder Bob Simon. He was a true visionary and entrepreneur of his time,” McAuliffe said.
“In Bob Simon, Virginia has lost a visionary who recognized all humans ought to be able to live together and be neighbors. I was honored to celebrate his 100th birthday in Reston last year and I know his legacy will live on in the community he created and loved. My thoughts and prayers are with his family,” Kaine said on Facebook.
Simon was innovative in creating Reston, said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) in statement, adding that Simon’s creation of the first racially integrated housing development in Virginia made him a “civil rights pioneer.”
“The Northern Virginia region owes much of its character and success to Bob. I feel this loss sharply and shall miss his dedication, his laugh and his friendship. A local giant is gone from our midst,” Connolly said.
A candlelight vigil will be held on Friday, Sept. 25, at 6:45 p.m. in Lake Anne Plaza. The first 300 people to attend will receive a vigil candle, according to Kat Toussaint of Around Reston Publications.