By Katie McFadden
It’s been a whole year in Rockaway without Lew Simon. On Thursday, November 10, 100th Precinct Deputy Inspector Carlos Fabara, a dear friend of Lew, brought the community together for a candlelight vigil to remember the late Democratic District Leader who fought for everyone.
On November 6, 2021, Lew Simon left this world. And the lack of the presence of Rockaway’s fiercest advocate has been felt ever since. At the vigil, candles were lit while friends, elected officials and Fabara spoke of that loss and who Lew was.
“Passionate, dedicated…a royal pain in the ass,” Senator Joseph Addabbo said to the crowd, as they broke into a chuckle. “Very few people that we know in our lives, or we cross paths with, we find is as dedicated and passionate about this peninsula. He kept us elected officials on our toes. I love Lew but who else could be at my wedding in 1998 and then my opponent in 2001? Who else, but Lew?
“He leaves a legacy of accomplishments here on the peninsula and in Broad Channel, a legacy of knowing what we need to do on this peninsula, working here together, putting politics aside and doing what we need to do for better days on the peninsula. That is what Lew Simon leaves behind. That inspiration to do more and to work with everyone. As you remember Lew, let’s go forward as a community, and hope for better days ahead in his honor,” Addabbo said. “God Bless Lew Simon.”
“Lew deserves this,” Councilwoman Joann Ariola said. “He deserves to be forever remembered because he never forgot anyone. No matter how much time passed, he would say to me ‘how is your mother, how are the boys, how are the grandkids?’ He’d remember them by name. And that is something that is so unique because he didn’t just ask you arbitrarily— he cared. It was terrible to watch him get sick, but even from his hospital bed and his bed at the rehabilitation center, he was calling and advocating for people who needed food dropped off to them, needed to be taken to the doctor, needed to be taken to Stop and Shop, and who could do it for them.
“He’s greatly missed,” Ariola said. “I don’t know one thing we’re fighting for now, whether its public safety, quality of life or education for our kids, that Lew wouldn’t have been at the forefront with a sign, protesting, being in favor of, fighting for it and making sure it happened. Senator Addabbo was right. He didn’t see any differentiation in party. He just saw people and he wanted to make sure people were taken care of, so his memory is a blessing, it remains blessing and it will forever be a blessing.”
Female Democratic District Leader Jeanette Garramone said, “He’s very missed. As all of us know, people used to say the ‘but,’ ‘I love Lew, but..’ everyone talks about that. But now? This one year passing? There’s no longer a but. Everybody misses him. We feel the difference. But he’s with us. Just by the people who are here. We all hold a special place in our heart for Lew. So keep fighting for what you believe in. And keep fighting for what Lew believed in you.”
Deputy Inspector Fabara, who organized the vigil said, “Lew was many things to many people. He was a friend and a neighbor. And he was an advocate for people in this community who didn’t have a voice. Lew was their voice. And I remember his voice distinctly because he would call so frequently. Barely a day went by where he didn’t call advocating for one person or another and I remember thinking, how does Lew know so many people that need help? I don’t even know that many people at all. When you get to know Lew, you’d realize how he knew so many people… because he would talk to anyone that would listen long enough and he made every single one of them feel like they were the most important person in the room. That was the way he was and it was very special. He really made it feel like he cared about you.
“Not only was he an advocate for the community but he was a friend to the police department,” Fabara continued. “He really, truly appreciated what we did. Behind closed doors, he would hold my feet to the fire, but in public, Lew would be the first one to defend us and it meant a lot to us and that is really why I wanted to take this opportunity to honor him and to remember him. I think it’s really special that you all came out for this because he was a special person,” Fabara said. “You all meant a lot to him, and he meant a lot to us.”
Thinking on the many phone calls he received from Lew, Fabara explained he recently came across some voicemails he had from Lew Simon, that he wanted to share with the crowd. “When I happened across a couple of voicemails that Lew left on my phone, they brought a smile to my face so I want to play them for you quickly, so we’ll be able to hear Lew’s voice one more time,” Fabara said.
He then played two voice messages from Lew through the speaker of a police vehicle. As people listened to Lew’s voice, it brought tears, laughs and a final message from the man that his friend Richard Berger described as “You love him, or you hate him, but everyone on the peninsula knew who the hell he was.” As the final message played, the crowd heard some familiar words from Simon—“I love you.”
A street co-naming ceremony for Lew Simon, on Beach 116th and Rockaway Beach Blvd., is expected to be held next summer.