Bernard Simmons

Simmons, Bernard J..
Bernard J. Simmons, of Fairfield, died on Thursday, March 6, 2014 at St. Vincent's Hospital in Bridgeport. He was 92 years old. "Bernie", as he was known to all, was an almost life-long resident of the Bridgeport area. His maternal grandfather, [Moische] Morris Kane [Kaganowicz], who was originally from Warsaw, Poland, arrived aboard the S.S. Pretoria with his wife Beile (Belle), his son Jacob (David) and his daughters Chaje (Helen/Sarah), Cecelia (Celia), and Sofia (Selma) on November 19 in 1904 and disembarked almost immediately for Bridgeport. His grandfather, who was noted for honesty in his business dealings, ran a small grocery store at 549 Lafayette Street [between Railroad Avenue & Allen Street] from 1909-1936. His father, Joseph Simmons [Tzinman], who was originally from Gorodok (now Haradok) a small shtetl in the Vitebsk Gubernia, Russia (now Belarus) who arrived in 1902, and after living in New York, Brooklyn, Liberty, NY, and Newark, NJ, settled in Bridgeport in 1917. Joseph Simmons was the proprietor of three well-known Bridgeport businesses: New York Auto, which was located at the intersection of North Avenue and Madison Avenue, plus New York Battery Exchange and New York Fuel Company from 1919 until his own death in 1950. Celia Kane and Joseph Simmons were married in December 1920, and Bernie was born on November 19, 1921 - exactly seventeen years to the day after his mother had arrived in this country from Poland. For many years the Simmons family resided at 589 Fairview Avenue in Bridgeport's North End. Bernie graduated from Central High School in 1938 at age sixteen and a half. As a youngster he worked for his father's business at New York Auto, the Clover Dairy, and later sold shoes for Tom McCann's in the Old Stratfield Hotel on Main Street in Bridgeport. He attended the University of Bridgeport, which was then the Connecticut Junior College for two years before the outbreak of World War I. Bernie enlisted in the United States Navy on December 8, 1941 - the Day after Pearl Harbor and reported for military service the day after the Fourth of July in 1942. He loved the country which had given his family so much opportunity and was very proud of his Navy Service. Benie served as a QM3C aboard the USS Antaeus in 1942, and transferred to the USS Milwaukee in 1943 as a QM3C-V6 . In January, 1944, he served aboard the USS Marts as a QM2C and aboard the USS Gustafson. After returning stateside to attend Officer Training School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Bernie returned to Navy Service as a Lieutenant J.G. He was one of only two Jewish officers aboard ship. Bernie was as devoted to his faith as he was to his country. While on a triangle tour that included Recife, Brazil, he attended a Jewish Community Center dance during shore leave there. He met Matilde Fichman, who is known to friends as "Lia," at that dance and they were married in Bridgeport in June 1947. There were married more than 66 years at the time of his death; after more than 66 years together, Bernie was as devoted to Lia as she was to him. She was, and always will be, the love of his life. After the war's end, Bernie returned to Yale University, where he graduated with a degree in Economics in 1947. Starting in 1952, Bernie began a career with R.H. Donnelley, publishers of the Yellow Pages. After moving back to Fairfield in 1966 and transferring to New York, Bernie rose through the ranks from salesman to District sales manager to General Sales Manager of the Manhattan Yellow pages, which was considered the most important publication in the R.H. Donnelley retinue. Additionally, he was the creator and developer of the first Spanish-language Yellow Pages. He retired from Donnelley's in 1986 and then became a Vice President for Kaiser Publications in Scarsdale, which published a set of regional set of Yellow Pages. After leaving Kaiser, he then traveled to and lived in Montevideo with his wife, where he was a consultant to telephone directories and advertising publications in Uruguay. A long time member and discussion group leader of the Honorable Menschen at the Bridgeport Jewish Community Center, Bernie was elected Man of the Year in 1996. He served as President of the Odd Fellow's Loyalty Lodge Cemetery Association for more than ten years and was recognized for his service to the organization as recently as October, 2013. He was instrumental in spearheading the effort to reclaim "lost" Jewish Cemeteries in the Bridgeport area. He additionally worked as a volunteer with the Jewish Family Services of Southern Connecticut, delivering Passover baskets to needy Jewish families. Bernie is survived by his wife, Lia, of Fairfield; his son, Luiz Simmons, an attorney in Silver Spring, Maryland area who is an elected member to the Maryland House of Delegates in Annapolis, his daughter-in-law, Claire, a Holocaust scholar who conducts tours of Jewish Heritage sites in Europe, his daughter, Jaynie Simmons-Taylor (Scott), a sign language interpreter in Washington, D.C., his grandson Joshua, a clinical psychologist in San Francisco, CA., his granddaughter Rachel of Northampton, MA., who is the author of "Odd Girl Out" and the head of the Girl's Youth Leadership Institute and his great-granddaughter Estee, his brother Richard Simmons of Sewickley, PA., his sister Rhoda Mazur of Monroe, CT., and many cousins, nieces, and nephews. His was a life richly lived and he will be missed by all who knew him. Funeral services will be at Abraham L. Green & Son Funeral Home at 88 Beach Road, Fairfield, Connecticut on Sunday, March 9 at 1:30 p.m. Interment will follow immediately at the Loyalty Lodge Cemetery on Burroughs Road off Black Rock Turnpike in Fairfield, Connecticut. Bernie will be buried with full military honors, including a rifle salute. Mourners are invited to join the family at Shiva at the family home immediately following the burial. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a contribution to the Wounded Warrior Project.



Funeral Home

Abraham L. Green & Son Funeral Home
88 Beach Road Fairfield, CT 06824
(203) 255-8993

Published in Connecticut Post on Mar. 7, 2014