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, VA. The 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.” Read More
Simon died in September at age 101. Founders Day has been expanded to Founders Week (April 3-10) this year in order to accommodate the many tributes to Simon.
The author of the book, titled In His Own Words: Stories from the Extraordinary Life of Reston’s Founder, is Reston native Kristina Alcorn.
The book is a compilation of Bob’s life stories that “draw an intimate and entertaining portrait of the man many knew only from a distance,” Alcorn said. Read More
To properly memorialize Reston Founder Robert E. Simon, the Reston Historic Trust, the Initiative for Public Art Reston and other local groups are greatly expanding Founders Day into Founders Week April 3 to 10.
Simon died in September at age 101. His 102nd birthday would have been April 10, 2016.
The celebrations will be a combo of art exhibits, films, and the traditional party on the plaza.
Founders Day at Lake Anne Plaza, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 9 . Free.
Join the Reston Historic Trust and Museum to celebrate Robert E. Simon, Jr. and Reston. Founder’s Day will feature a 50-foot Ferris wheel sponsored by Reston Association (RA), children’s activities, children’s art projects in cooperation with the Initiative for Public Art – Reston (IPAR), musical entertainment for all ages provided by local artists and schools, guided walks around Lake Anne Plaza in cooperation with IPAR and RA, and remarks by local elected officials.
On this special Founder’s Day, Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association (LARCA) and IPAR partnered to commission a new version of The Wooden Horse originally created by artist Gonzalo Fonseca in 1965. The sculpture was first installed on grass, as in a pasture, and was later moved to a brick walkway, not far from the building, another sculpture created by Fonseca.
Because both sculptures were made of wood, they have been lost to the effects of time. Like the other sculptures at Lake Anne Plaza, The Horse was meant to be played on. This new version of The Wooden Horse was constructed by Reston artist Marco Rando.
Here’s an overview of what else is on the Founders Day slate:
Emerging Visions: Contemplating Community at Greater Reston Arts Center, 12001 Market Street at Reston Town Center. Free.
Lakeside Pharmacy, the last of the plaza’s original stores, closed in 2014, and so did the postal operation. But even with the post office gone, is that an absolute neighborhood necessity in an Amazon.com and email world in 2016?
A current Lake Anne merchant thinks so and has started a fundraising campaign to bring it back.
Doris Tyler, the owner of Chesapeake Chocolates who also took over Lake Anne Florist in 2015, has started an effort to bring a post office across the plaza to her store space at 11426 Washington Plaza West.
The U.S. Post Office recently awarded Tyler the license for a Contract Postal Unit (CPU), a retail postal facility located inside a retail establishment. CPUs are operated by the retailer’s employees and offer the same basic services available at a regular Post Office, according to a Go Fund Me page started for the project.
Even though Robert E. Simon — who envisioned Reston where others saw just muddy pasture in the mid-1960s — was past the century mark, he lived his last years as active as a man half his age.
In any given week, Simon was at development meetings, Reston Association meetings, IPAR receptions. He could be seen on a his daily walk around Lake Anne Plaza or at his usual table at Cafe Montmartre. In May, he even filmed a Geico commercial, doing multiple takes under a blazing hot sun.
That’s why it came as such a shock to many when he died on Sept. 21 at his Heron House condo after a very short illness.
Read the original Reston Now obituary, as well as many other reflections of what the man meant to our community. Among them:
The Bronze Bob turns into a makeshift memorial.
A candlelight memorial for Simon.
Really, that’s no more than $50 or so since Reston is a fairly young community just heading towards its 52nd birthday.
The RHT is organizing the online fundraiser “to help support our mission and honor Robert E. Simon, Jr.’s legacy. The campaign is designed to help RHT collect $100,000 toward the retiring the mortgage, securing our space on Lake Anne Plaza for generations,” RHT officers said in a statement.
Founder Simon died in September at age 101.
The RHT has a goal of raising $100,000.The nonprofit would then be able to expand its outreach and educational programs; employ a full-time director; and retire the debt on the Reston Museum at Lake Anne Plaza.
To donate now, visit RHT’s Go Fund Me page.
Did you miss the candlelight vigil in honor of Reston founder Bob Simon on Sept. 25?
The event has been packaged into a 10-minute video featuring speeches from Reston dignitaries; kind words from friends, neighbors and citizens; and the moving sendoff lining Lake Anne Plaza.
Simon died on Sept. 21 at age 101.
Photo: Candlelight vigil on Sept. 25/Credit: Charlotte Geary of Modern Reston
Reston and founder Robert E. Simon’s legacy will be featured in a segment on WAMU’s (88.5) “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” Thursday at 12 p.m.
Nnamdi’s guests will include former Reston Association CEO Milton Matthews and
Roger Lewis, Architect and Professor Emeritus of Architecture, University of Maryland College Park.
WAMU says “Robert Simon, the brain behind one of America’s best-known models of planned suburban development, recently passed away. But he left behind a legacy in Reston, Va., that continues to influence how neighborhoods are conceived and developed. Architect and urban planner Roger Lewis joins us to explore whether planned communities function as Simon intended – and where they still fit into the fabric of the D.C. region.”
Award-winning filmmaker Wingert-Jabi, of Reston, has been working on the film for more than two years.
The documentary explores founder Robert Simonʼs unique vision for American life. While 1950s post-war suburban sprawl prioritized single-family homes, Simon dreamed ʻanother way of livingʼ that valued community, nature and social equity.
Simon set out to build a suburban town that integrated citizens across racial and economic divides. It wasn’t always an easy ride.
Many longtime Restonians are interviewed in the film, which also uses historical photos and items. Wingert-Jabi has filmed more than 250 hours of footage to create the 72-minute movie.
Wingert-Jabi says she hopes the legacy of Simon, who died last month at age 101, will live on through this film.
“The film shows how Simon’s vision was so powerful and touched upon such basic human values that it not only influenced the way the suburbs were developed in America but also guided the development of Reston over the last 50 years,” she says.
A rough cut of the film was screened for Reston VIPs in 2014 as part of Simon’s 100th birthday celebrations. Wingert-Jabi said much more work has been put into editing the film into its current format.
She said she is excited the film will be premiering here in Virginia.
“From the beginning, Reston was shaped by its Virginia context and it continues to grow in that context today,” she said. “The University of Virginia is an ideal setting to have a conversation about how Simon’s vision developed over 50 years and how it can inform community development moving forward.”
The screening will be followed by a conversation with Urban Land Institute Global CEO, Patrick Phillips; Virginia State Senator and Reston Resident, Janet Howell; Reston’s first salesman, Chuck Veatch; director Wingert-Jabi; and the University of Virginiaʼs Chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, Tim Beatley.
More than 500 Reston residents and former residents paid their respects to Reston founder Bob Simon at a candlelight vigil at Lake Anne Plaza on Friday night. Simon died last week at age 101.
The Reston Chorale sang, several community members spoke about Simon or reflected on growing up in his “new town, and a guitarist played Amazing Grace as people lined the lake with candles.
The lights stretched from Heron House, where Simon spent his final 23 years, all away around and through the main part of the plaza.
“In my mind I see Bob Simon over 50 years ago, who set out to be different type of civil rights leader, who when it wasn’t yet illegal to practice housing discrimination, stretched out his hands of opportunity, developed a planned community full of rich green trees, that was the first racially integrated community in Virginia, welcoming to all people of color and economic backgrounds,” said former Reston Association board member Amanda Andere.
Simon’s absence was also noted at Saturday’s Reston Multicultural Festival.
“I don’t think I have ever been to an event in Reston and Bob was not here,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va 11th). “We have built a special community here in Reston due to Bob’s prodding.”
Twenty-six people from 17 countries were sworn in at a naturalization ceremony on the plaza, which was followed by an afternoon of storytelling, music, dance and other cultural performances (and food and crafts) from around the world.
Saturday also was the official unveiling of We Make Reston, a photo exhibition that is part of the international Inside Out Project. Out of 300 entries, 169 portraits — including one of Simon — were selected for the exhibition.
The photos will be on display for the next four weeks at the Lake Anne Sea Wall,
Jo Ann Rose Gallery at RCC Lake Anne (Indoor exhibit, on display through October 2), Reston Station and South Lakes High School.
For additional pictures, visit Modern Reston.
One of the major gifts President Obama presented to Pope Francis during his visit to Washington this week was a stainless steel sculpture of a dove that incorporated an iron bar from the Statue of Liberty’s original structure.
The sculpture was created by Zachary Oxman, a Reston native who also created the “Bronze Bob” statue at Lake Anne Plaza.
Oxman, 47, told The Washington Post he received a call from the State Department’s office of protocol in August asking if he would be interested in creating a gift for the Pope when he made his first visit to the United States.
The State Department had the idea of using a three-foot long iron bar that was removed from the Statue of Liberty during its centennial restoration, Oxman told the Post. The bar was originally part of the statue’s supporting structure, which was designed by Gustav Eiffel, he of Parisian tower fame.
“It’s just the thought of the hands that created this bar,” Oxman told the Post. “Frédéric Auguste] Bartholdi did the Statue of Liberty and Gustav Eiffel [designed the armature]. They were involved with it personally. And here is a sculptor given the opportunity to, not change it or melt it down, but to add to it, to give it this other life.”
Oxman said he did not cut the bar or rework it in any way. He also said he did not want to change the patina the bar has acquired over 130 years.
He positioned the bar vertically, which reminded Oxman of the path a bird might take when taking flight. He told the Post he adorned the bar with a stylized dove, a motif that has figured in some of his works and represents peace.
This is not the first time Oxman, a graduate of South Lakes High School and Carnegie Mellon University, has called upon by Washington officials. In 2013, he created Sabbath wine goblets that Obama presented to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Before that, Oxman, who is Jewish, created menorahs that President Bill Clinton and his family gave as gifts.
He has also created sculptures given by the White House and State Department to leaders of Mexico, China, India and Germany.
Oxman’s mother, Laney, was also an accomplished artist who taught lessons in her home studio near Lake Anne for years. Zachary Oxman lives and works in Bethesda, Md., now. He is nationally recognized for his large-scale works, which have been been commissioned by synagogues and museums nationwide.
Bronze Bob, meanwhile, is the life-sized model of Reston’s founder, who died this week at age 101. A gift from the Reston Historic Trust, it was installed on 2004 to mark Simon’s 90th birthday.
Read more about Zachary Oxman on his website.
Photo of Zachary Oxman courtesy of Oxman Studios
[On Monday], we all lost a great visionary, Reston lost its founder, and I lost a dear friend. Robert E. Simon died peacefully at his home in Reston at age 101.
Bob changed the way we view community in America when he created the Reston community over 50 years ago. Risking his fortune, he purchased land in then rural countryside of Virginia. He then proceeded to develop a community unlike any other in our country.
Reston was to be open and welcoming to all, regardless of race or economic status. In an era of Jim Crow and still segregated schools, that was unheard of. His community was to be “planned” and mix housing, businesses, and vast acres of untouched land around village centers where people could mingle and support small local shops. Respect for nature was central to his plan.
It was to be anti-suburbia, suburbia.
Not surprisingly, Reston and Robert E. Simon were way ahead of their time. The venture hit bad economic times and he was forced out. For almost two decades he left his community. But we continued to grow.
I met Bob at Reston’s 20th Anniversary. I was president of the Reston Community Association and we threw a big celebration with a parade, festival on Lake Anne and cultural events. Bob and I really hit it off and he was so happy to be back for a short while. I clearly remember riding in a convertible with him in the parade and dancing the Charleston with him on Lake Anne.
Soon after he asked me if I thought it would be alright for him to move back to Reston. He wasn’t sure it would be appropriate! I told him we needed him and we as a community were beginning to drift, losing sight of his goals.
Soon he was back here helping us all define what Reston needed. Bob was full of ideas. His biggest concern was providing for children and having Reston guide them to bright futures. He became deeply involved in planning Town Center, preserving Lake Anne, and guiding Reston Association.
He was constantly involved, constantly pursuing his goals, and constantly nagging us in a kind but persistent way to do better.
And, when he came back, he met Cheryl whom he loved and married over ten years ago. Cheryl Terio-Simon made it possible for him to continue to pursue his dreams.
I am so glad he lived to see Reston’s 50th Birthday. He was so proud. He also delighted in the children who would come to meet him. He never turned down a child’s request.
For the past two decades I have been part of a small social club that meets monthly for dinner and serious discussions. Bob was part of that group. He rarely missed a meeting and asked thought provoking questions.
On my deck in mid-August, he was himself — totally engaged and thinking of the future, especially the future of Reston. The only hint that he was not totally well was that he had only one martini, not his customary two.
Robert E. Simon taught us how to live, to achieve, and to dream.
The community is invited to attend a candlelight vigil on Friday to honor the life and legacy of Reston founder Robert E. Simon, who died on Monday at age 1o1.
This will be an informal gathering, with a more organized memorial service to be held at a later date, a spokeswoman said.
The vigil, organized by Around Reston magazine, begins at 6:45 p.m. at Lake Anne Plaza. The first 300 visitors will be given candles, says Around Reston.
“We believe this respectful, grassroots gathering offers the Reston community an opportunity to come together to celebrate Bob Simon’s life,” Around Reston said on its Facebook page.
The gathering will be led by Pastor Tim Ward of Restoration United Methodist Church. It will include several speakers from the Reston community.
Overflow parking is available at United Christian Parish on North Shore Drive.
Other Simon memorial news:
“Every organization has a founder’s story. In Reston the story goes that Robert E. Simon envisioned a place where people were welcomed and welcoming, and the assets that sustain and enrich a person throughout his life were available from the beginning in a new town in which “community” would flourish.
From fulfilling jobs and a wide range of housing types at prices to meet each family’s need over a lifetime, to accessible cultural and recreational experiences to enjoy with good friends or on one’s own, Robert E. Simon envisioned a vibrant, living place that attended to and feeds the soul. While his plans were never fully or perfectly implemented to scale, the blueprints are safe in our hands.”
The Reston Historic Trust is organizing an online archive of tributes to Simon — from news articles to personal remembrances. Access the archive on the museum’s website to contribute.
Community member Will Marlow has also started Celebrating Bob, an archive where people can upload photos and memories of Simon.
Photo by Heather Mongilio
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.
I had lived in Reston for 13 years by that time, and of course had heard the legend of Mr. Simon. With his Pete Seeger-style fisherman’s cap and his white goatee, he was a popular yet nearly mythical figure around town.
I had just left my longtime newspaper job and gone to work for AOL, which was starting a network of hyperlocal news sites. As the founder of Reston Patch, it was on me to know all things Reston. Starting with Mr. Simon.
We met at the Lake Anne Coffee House that day in spring 2010. I brought my friend Justine with me because I was kind of scared. We talked about all those things Reston — what he liked, what he didn’t like, whether it turned out the way he planned. He admonished me when I called the Reston Association trail crossings tunnels.
“They are underpasses!” he said, thumping his cane on the ground.
OK, underpasses it is. I never made that mistake again.
Over the years, I came to consider Mr. Simon — I still called him Mr. Simon even though he would constantly correct me and say “Please call me Bob” — a friend and the most interesting man in Reston. Maybe Virginia. I’m not going to say in the world. I don’t know everyone in the world.
After watching my parents — young enough to be Bob Simon’s children — slowly die over the last few years, I came to think Simon just might outlive us all. When we first met in 2010, he said one of his regrets was he would not live to see Metro come to Reston. Even with a whole bunch of Silver Line delays, he rode it the first day — and danced on the Reston Station Plaza.
I would sometimes see Bob out several times a week — a Reston Association meeting one night; a reception the next; speaking before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors one day; then holding court at one his favorite Lake Anne restaurants.
Much like how they used to ID another legend, Joe DiMaggio, as “the greatest living baseball player,” at events in DiMaggio’s later years, Simon was always given a shoutout. He seemed to love the role as elder statesman. He would stand and wave when introduced, perhaps doffing his fisherman’s cap. Always with a big smile.
He started using a walker about a year ago. But his mind was as sharp as ever. In June, he stood up and told the RA Board to, let’s use a euphemism, grow a pair.
“For the past several years, Reston has been run by the NIMBYs (“Not In My Backyard”),” Simon said, recalling issues such as a tennis facility at Lake Newport and the more recent bocce court proposed for a pocket park off of South Lakes Drive.
“This is why I am here — to strengthen your resolve, all the way up to the [Fairfax County] Board of Supervisors. A lot of attention is paid to the naysayers. It is a bloody fact when an issue comes up, people in favor stay home and NIMBYS come out to holler. A good NIMBY knows first thing you holler is traffic. It takes sophisticated analysis to know whether it will affect traffic. But that is what they use to terrify the board.”
He called me in early July to set up lunch to make sure I got things right when I wrote about Reston’s history. He penned our lunch date down in his red book. Everything went in the red book.
I met him promptly at noon — we went to the friendly hug hello years ago — in the lobby of Heron House and strolled across Lake Anne Plaza to Cafe Montmartre, one of his hangouts.
“How did you get into this business?” Bob asked me. “How do you make money at Reston Now? How many readers do you have?”
Bob ordered a gin Bloody Mary. It’s noon on a Tuesday and I am not a big drinker, but one does as Mr. Simon does. Make mine with vodka. Read More