Albert Joseph Simon
Dr. Albert Joseph Simon, born in New Orleans February 9, 1927, left this world December 5, 2018. The son of Lea Ory and Agricole Simon, Al grew up in New Orleans along with his four siblings. Al was a member of the Greatest Generation; upon his 1944 graduation from Jesuit High School, he turned down a full scholarship to Tulane to enlist in the U.S. Navy because, as he said, “I wanted to do my part.”
“Doing his part” was the code Al lived by, and he learned it early on. When his father’s sudden death left the young Simon family without a bread winner in the midst of the Depression, nine-year-old Al helped his mother support the family by working as a bicycle delivery boy for a neighborhood drugstore, by serving Mass as an altar boy for small fees, and even by collecting and returning wire coat hangers to a nearby cleaners for pennies.
Al continued to “do his part” as a scholar-athlete at Jesuit High and, after WW II, by studying and playing baseball at LSU. In 1950, when the United States entered the Korean Conflict, Al answered the call of duty once more, this time in the U.S. Army. Upon his return, he earned a Ph.D. in health, physical education and psychology at LSU.
Through athletics and health studies, Al found his lifelong calling as a coach, as a teacher, and as a mentor who encouraged young people to be the best they could be. Named Louisiana’s Basketball Coach of the Year in 1963, Al continued to coach championship teams on the high school and college levels. He is still revered—to the point of adoration—by many of his former players and students at De LaSalle High School in New Orleans; at Lafayette High School in Lafayette; at LSU; at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette; at St. Joseph and St. Andrew’s Episcopal schools in Jackson, and at Jackson State University, where he was an instructor in health studies for the last 16 years.
As a community leader, Al continued to make contributions, serving as a city councilman in Lafayette for 16 years and as council president for five of those years. He was a leader at his parish church in Lafayette; he served as president of the Greater Southwestern Louisiana Mardi Gras Association; he advocated for public support of fitness and health, including AIDS awareness. Al served on the board of directors for the Louisiana Open Golf Tournament in Lafayette. He worked with officials of the National Endowment for the Arts to establish city-wide arts experiences, and he was named Public Servant of the Year in 1991 by the Lafayette Art Association.
Fluent in French, Al was instrumental in the success of Festival Internationale, a collaborative effort connecting Louisiana to a multi-faceted worldwide celebration of French language and culture. In 1991, Al was delighted to be chosen as the Mardi Gras King of Les Brigands de Lafitte.
Through his work with the National League of Cities, Al met the love of his life, Margaret Barrett, who served on the Jackson City Council for 32 years. Since their marriage in 1996, Al has been a true champion of Jackson, making hundreds of friends who all grieve his loss today.
Al Simon is survived by his wife Margaret; sister Claire Whitney; daughters: Nanette Cook (David) and Michelle Dunaway (Lige) of Lafayette; Allison Barrett of Jackson; Ellen Simons (Scott) of Point Clear; Susan Margaret Barrett (Scott) of Jackson; Leighton Strong (Chris) of New Orleans; Kathryn Meloan Barrett and Danielle Beard of Jackson.
He also leaves behind loving grandchildren: Claire (Robert), Emily (Andy), John, Eleanor and Christopher Cook; Dr. David, Kevin and Elise Dunaway; Barrett (Emily), Allison Douglas and Cyrus Manning; Lauryn Elizabeth, Jacob and Edward Simons; Charlie, Benjamin, and Lily Margaret Johnson; Sadie Margaret, Virginia, and Clifton Strong, along with Grayson Simons, his great grandson, and his precious Boudreaux cousins.
His son-in-law Scott Albert Johnson said it best: “Some people go through each day with a twinkle in their eye. Al was the twinkle in everyone's eyes. He lived life the way it ought to be lived: with passion, curiosity, and the deepest kindness and love. I've never known a finer person, nor have I ever met a person who lived a fuller, more interesting, and more worthwhile life.”
A celebration of Al’s extraordinary life will be held at St. James Episcopal Church, in Jackson, December 28. Visitation will be at 1 p.m. in Fowler Hall and the service at 2 p.m., with a reception to follow at Margaret and Al’s home.
In lieu of flowers, and because of his love for helping students, memorials may be made to the Jackson State University Development Foundation, P.O. Box 17144, Jackson, Miss., 39217, with "College of Education" on the memo line; Jesuit Scholarship Fund at Jesuit High School, 4133 Banks St., New Orleans, La., 70119; and/or St. Andrew’s Episcopal School – Arches to Excellence Fund at 370 Old Agency Rd., Ridgeland, Miss., 39157 or online at www.gosaints.org/arches