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Danish Marys, Signature Humor Mark Tribute to Bob Simon

by Karen Goff — April 11, 2016 at 10:15 am 8 Comments

Reston citizens, elected officials and old friends gathered at the Hyatt Regency Reston on Sunday to honor Reston founder Robert E. Simon.

Simon died in September at age 101, and there was no formal funeral or memorial service at that time. Sunday’s program, “In Celebration of the Life of Robert E. Simon Jr.,” served as a way for people to memorialize Simon, who would have turned 102 yesterday.

The gathering — which featured Simon’s favorite drink, a Danish Mary (Bloody Mary with Aquavit) — capped Founders Week activities in Reston.

The formal part of the service featured some of Simon’s favorite showtunes, including selections from Jerome Kern played by a string quartet and a piece commissioned with the Reston Chorale for Simon’s 100th birthday in 2014.

There was also a short film by Rebekah Wingert-Jabi, the director of Another Way of Living: The Story of Reston, VAThe film, made from some the footage from the longer-form Another Way of Living, captured some of Simon’s signature vigor and wit.

“From the waist up, I feel about 65,” he said on his 99th birthday. “From the waist down, I am about 125.”

Reston resident Kristina Alcorn recently published a book, In His Own Words: Stories From the Extraordinary Life of Reston’s Founder, Robert E. Simon. Alcorn gave an overview of Simon’s life before he founded Reston in the early 1960s.

She showed a slideshow of young Simon — with his sisters in New York City, bike riding in Europe as a young man, and at age 23, taking over as president of Carnegie Hall after the death of his father.

Gino Francesconi, Carnegie Hall archivist, said Reston and the famed performance hall have something in common. When the cornerstone of Carnegie Hall was laid in 1889, it was 3 1/2 miles north of midtown Manhattan.

Critics said pretty much the same thing when Simon envisioned Reston where there were dirt roads and cow pastures.

“But if you were good enough, people went the extra mile to see you,” said Francesconi. “And here we are sitting today on what was a dairy farm.”

Francesconi said he was pleased to meet Simon in his later years — and to give him his rightful place in Carnegie Hall history. Simon, Francesconi, discovered, knocked $250,000 off the price of of $5 million when he sold Carnegie Hall to the city in 1960. Reaching the deal saved Carnegie Hall from being torn down.

“Bob Simon’s name will forever be linked to the history of Carnegie Hall,” said Francesconi.

Simon used the proceeds of the sale to purchase the Virginia acreage that would become Reston. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va. 11th) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) reflected on how Simon’s vision of an open and integrated community was revolutionary in 1962.

“At Harvard, Bob was blackballed from all the clubs because he was Jewish,” said Connolly. “Though Bob said that really did not influence him, he took not bitterness, but justice to be addressed when he decided this place would be an integrated place in segregated Virginia.”

“He loved every minute of it, his connection with the community he founded,” said Connolly.

Said Kaine: “Bob could have picked a lot of places in 1962 that would have been a whole lot easier. But Bob said ‘let’s be welcoming.’ That’s who Bob was, because of the experiences he had.”

  • Mike M

    Rich people are awesome! They are so, . . . rich!

    • ShutTheHellUP

      Had you attended the event- which was free to the public you would see how utterly STUPID your comment is- honestly I wish you would move to Mananas, or Leesburg, or any other place but Reston.

      • Mike M

        Thanks for the erudite feedback. But I’ve better things to do than worship the rich.

        See you ’round town, neighbor.

        Your “community” pal, Mike M. 😉

        • RestonNiceGuy

          How was this “worshiping the rich?” Are you suggesting that Robert Simon was rich? Do you have evidence of this? His lavish lifestyle? Expensive cars? Seems like he created a pretty good place for us all to live, doesn’t seem like a respectful send off is out of line, but hey- if that’s too much for you to muster, whatever.

          • Mike M

            The difference between Simon and the the rest of us is that he inherited wealth and then bought land upon which to impose his semi-utopian vision. That takes both wealth and supreme ego. Where and how the vast majority of Restonians live has NOTHING to do with Simon’s original vision. Most of his vision failed. In fact, he was contemptuous of filled the void. Read up.I am fatigued by the endless “respectful sendoff.”

          • RestonNiceGuy

            I’m sorry for your sad perspective and hope it’s not representative of your life.

          • Mike M

            Baaaa-aaa-aaa-aaa, not.

            Facts and mythology often don’t mix well.

            Better men than Bob bled out into the frozen floor of the Ardennes while he was having the time of his life due to a cherry “assignment” in Paris. Bob blithely boasted of his time in Paris for the rest of his life, seemingly oblivious that others were doing the heavy lifting of his time. You will never know their names, nor their potential. Line up. Kiss the ring! Bow to the Gods.

      • RoadApples

        Curious question: where is “Mananas”?

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