Had she lived, Simone would have turned 90 today, March 4, 2021. Fate had another date in mind, however: September 20th, 2006. On that day she died peacefully at home in our Honolulu apartment after a short bout with pancreatic cancer. She was 75 ½. Had she lived two months and ten days longer, we would have celebrated 43 years of marriage...
Simone and I met in April 1959 on a three-week German student bus trip from Munich via the then Yugoslavia to Greece and back. While viewing the ancient Hellenic ruins together, we fell in love. After my weekend visit to see her in Munich—at the time I was a Yale-Heidelberg junior-year exchange student—we were pen pals until her arrival in New York City on October 26, 1963. The Lutheran Campus Pastor at Yale, the Rev. Richard Olson, married us in Dwight Chapel on Yale’s Old Campus on November 30, 1963. I was a third-year graduate student in English at the time. In summer 1965 we moved to Flushing, Queens, where I began my first professional job as a lecturer in English at Queens College. In August 1967, Simone, our 11-month-old daughter Marianna, and I, having recently gotten my Ph.D. in English, flew to Honolulu. We spent the next five year there, I at the University of Hawai`i and the East-West Center. In July 1971 our second child, Christine, was born. After 15 months in Germany, where I taught for the University of Maryland, we moved to Chicago for 14 years. There I became first director then dean of Program Development at a regional state university. In September 1987, it was off to St. Paul, Minnesota, where I functioned as academic vice president and a literature professor, then assistant to the Chancellor of the State University System for International Programs. Our final move as a family was back to Honolulu in September 1996, Simone’s favorite place to live. There I worked as a nonprofit executive, consultant, and fundraiser. And it was there that she died.
Simone was a beautiful and talented actress. Alas, in the bombed-out days of early post-War Germany—she was nine years my senior—families needed to do whatever it took to scrape by. Simone thus became a secretary at a chemical company and did community theater on the side. In later life she was also an inspired jewelry-maker. Primarily she worked at a variety of part-time jobs to help support the family. Once we had two kids, however, she was mainly an outstanding stay-at-home mom. After her own widowed mother had a stroke in Germany, we invited her to live with us. So, Simone was also busy caring for Oma (German for granny) until the latter’s death in 1989. From 1962 until her own death, moreover, Simone functioned as a “helper” in our spiritual practice, Subud. She was a kind of elder who assisted newer members. Altogether she was a beautiful human being inside and out, someone I still miss and cry for nearly 15 years after her death. As she told me in a dream, she’s now a kind of social worker for us from Up There. You go, girl!
Simone Zimmermann Feldman (3/4/1931 – 9/20/2006)