Remembering Laura Lee Simon

For more than 50 years, Laura Lee Simon played a pivotal role in Westport life. She was a leader in a wide range of public and private local, state and national organizations, from human services to public broadcasting.

Her lifelong passion was advocating for children, and providing opportunities for them — particularly those who were underserved. One example: In the 1960s, she was a key organizer of Project Concern. The program — controversial at first, then recognized by all for its great value — brought students from Bridgeport into the Westport schools. 

She lived in Westport from 1956 to 2016. Her husband of 65 years, John Simon, was a Westport civic and cultural leader until his death in 2015.

Laura Lee and John Simon

Laura Lee Simon died yesterday in White Plains, New York. She was 90 years old. Her family says she had been in ill health for a long while. Here is a bit of her inspiring life.

She was a founding member of the Connecticut Commission on Children, and served as its chair for 10 years. She was the first woman to chair Connecticut Public Broadcasting, and was  vice president of the Connecticut Child Welfare Association and the Connecticut Association for Human Services.

She was a founder of the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition, an adviser to the Stepping Stones Museum for Children, and chair of the Museum’s Community Partners Council.She was involved with numerous other state and national organizations, including serving as Connecticut chair of a 6-state National Crime Prevention Council initiative to develop policies that promote healthy, safe, smart caring communities for children to grow.

She was responsible for the first Harris Poll to ascertain Connecticut citizens’ view of prevention; organized the first media roundtable of its kind in Connecticut to bring media, policymakers and practitioners together to determine how best to tell the story of Connecticut’s children; and helped generate support for the creation of the executive branch’s Prevention Council.

She forged a coalition between the Commission on Children, Connecticut Public Broadcasting, the Committee on Economic Development and the National League of Cities to mount a public education campaign, “Kids for Connecticut,” to promote policies to assure children’s health, safety and learning.

She chaired the Committee on Public Expenditures for Connecticut’s Children to develop the first state children’s budget in the country as a trustee of the Southport Institute for Policy Analysis, and as state chair of the White House Conference on Families and its follow-up National Task Force.

She spent 15 years as a board member of the National Social Welfare Conference, a member of the National Advisory panel of the Child Care Action Campaign, chair for 15 years of the Stauffer Westport Fund, and a member of the Children’s Committee of the Council on Foundations.

In 1992, the New York Times interviewed Laura Lee Simon about her child advocacy work.

Laura Lee Simon earned numerous awards and citations, including the June Goodman Award from the Connecticut Association for Human Services, the Connecticut Psychological Association Award for Service to Children, the Women Who Dare to Make a Difference Award from the National Council of Jewish Women, the Community Leadership Award from the Junior League, the United Nations Association Award to Outstanding Women in Connecticut, the Connecticut Secretary of State’s Public Service award, and the Stepping Up for Children Award from the Stepping Stones Museum for Children.

She was honored by Connecticut Public Broadcasting at its Founders Celebration, by the United Way for a lifetime of excellence in community engagement work, and by 2 gubernatorial proclamations of “Laura Lee Simon Day” in 2001 and 2003.

Laura Lee Simon was born in Syracuse, New York in 1929. Her family moved in 1939 to New York City, where Laura Lee attended Julia Richman High School. She held a B.A. in psychology and political science from Syracuse University, and an M.A. in guidance from Teachers College, Columbia University.

She is survived by her daughter Terri Simon of Scarsdale, New York; her sons Andrew Simon of Manhattan and James Simon of Connecticut; 7 grandchildren;  a great-granddaughter, and her brother, Michael Reeder, of Boynton Beach, Florida.

Contributions in her memory may be made to Stepping Stones Museum in Norwalk.

11 responses to “Remembering Laura Lee Simon

  1. Lucinda Setnicka

    Hi Dan – wow, what a legacy! My Mom and Laura Lee were friends and Terri (Simon) was a good friend of mine; by any chance do you have contact info for Terri?

    Thanks,

    Lucinda Mirk Setnicka
    Ojaimirk@hotmail.com

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. What an absolutely remarkable woman. A life well lived and good intentions made a reality. Amazing the amount of lives Laura Lee’s efforts truly changed for the better.
    Condolences to her family.

  3. What an incredible life. My condolences to my former teammates and their sister.

  4. Cheryl McKenna Kritzer

    As a Jew now ( 1978 converted) and once a Catholic in my younger days . I am simply amazed by what a small population of Jews in the world do .
    Just in Westport Ct. someone like Lauren Simon has done so much . I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing her. G-d bless her and her family during this incredible loss.

    • Gerard MacDonell

      So good. What religions would you say have the useless people?

      • Cheryl McKenna Kritzer

        What an odd question on a wonderful woman’s memorial. None is my short answer. Spiritually is great in every religion in my humble opinion. I just wonder at the percentage of accomplishments for a small number of Jews left on this planet … my thoughts are with her family during this great loss they are enduring.
        Maybe I shouldn’t have brought this up in retrospect.

  5. Michael Calise

    I had the pleasure of serving on the RTM with John. Laura Lee and John were great Westporter’s contributing immensely to the betterment of our community. My condolences to their family,

  6. Gerard MacDonell

    Given how loud the overpowered lawn mowers and leaf blowers are, I estimate that there are about 30 properties around me that have the ability to make going outside — or even remaining inside — unbearable because of the noise.

    They go about once a week for about 4 hours each. If they were perfectly staggered, that would be about 120 hours a week, which is just beyond what we get as daylight this time of year.

    Of course, sometimes you get them in stereo, which means there are a few fleeting moments when one might go outside.

    What I wonder is what these lawn obsessed people are planning for. Are they looking forward to that big summertime event where they invite all their friends over to sit outside and listen to lawn equipment?

    What I do know is that this town has become uninhabitable because of this noise. And I notice this now, obviously, because I am locked down.

    Are the people running this town stupid? Every year, the house prices here fall, in what was until recently a booming national market.

    I know there are local issues. For example, there is no longer a bid for people doing nothing for one million a year on Wall Street. But quality of life must also enter into it. Who would want to be here with all this racket?

    • Mary Schmerker

      Dear Mr. MacDonell,
      Is this the right forum for your comment? Surely you could accomplish more bringing this up in a proper forum. The Simons made significant contributions
      during their lifetimes and this is the place to remember them and let their families know that they were appreciated. Thank you.

  7. Laura Lee Simon was the mother of my dear friend and classmate, Terri Simon. She was unfailingly gracious and welcoming to housefuls of her children’s friends and acquaintances, and a role model to all of us. I am grateful to have grown up under her influence.

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