Meet Your Neighbor: Richard Simon, 90
Richard Simon’s answering machine greeting is atypical.
Instead of having a standard greeting asking people to leave their names and numbers, Simon recorded himself singing a Nat King Cole classic. And at 90 years young, he is a force to be reckoned with that is filled with many other surprises.
In 1923, Simon was born Zeky Doumani Eassa to a Lebanese father and a Syrian mother. The Eassa family became the Simons when got to Ellis Island. The new surname was chosen by Simon’s uncle and stuck with the family when they moved to Delray Beach a year after his birth.
They lived in a small two bedroom house with no hot water a few blocks away from Delray Beach High School.
And when he first started elementary school, his aunt advised him to go officially by the name Richard, though only his teachers called him this. To his friends and family, he was always Zeky.
As the only son out of four children, Simon began working from a very early age, mostly helping his mother run her small fruit and vegetable stand. Despite this, he dreamed of becoming a professional singer and said his friends often compared his voice to the likes of Dean Martin and Tony Bennett.
Despite his passion, Simon did not pursue a musical career. Instead, he went off to the University of Florida but left after a year to join the Air Force in 1943. This prompted him to legally change his name to Richard Zicky Simon.
“My father told me that the United States was the best country in the world. I believed him then and I believe him now,” said Simon, explaining his love for America. Though he never saw combat he was proud to have served his country.
Simon returned to Delray Beach when he left the military. He began working for the U.S. Postal Service and other places around town to make ends meet. He did this until 1957, when he joined the staff of Adams Chevrolet, the first car dealership in Delray Beach. It was there that Simon found his true calling.
Though the dealership has changed its ownership and name several times, 56 years later Simon remains a constant presence.
At 90, he remains an active member of the team at what is now known as Auto Nation. Most weeks, he works Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m..
He takes advantage of his three-day weekends privilege to play golf and spend time with his family. He had three daughters with his ex-wife and now has six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. “The Lord has given me all this time and a wonderful family,” said Simon.
Though many of Simon’s peers have passed away, he’s made younger friends with whom he golfs and spends time.
Living a long, full life is something that Simon has always aspired to. He hopes to be like his great grandfather who lived to be 115 years old. Commenting on where he is now, Simon says: “You can’t look back. You just have to thank God for being alive.”
Q & A
What are your hobbies?
My favorite hobby is golf. I also enjoy watching sports.
What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
I can’t get into that …
If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
I’d like to have dinner with Tony Bennett. He’s not a lot younger than I am, but he’s still making music.
What is the best advice you ever received?
To not smoke. I told my daughters that the only blessing they could give me was to not smoke.
What event in history would you have liked to have witnessed?
I’m not sure.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
I won both the yoyo and jai alai contests as a kid and they gave me some nice sweatshirts.
Who is your hero, someone who inspires you?
Dean Martin and Tony Bennett
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I’m not sure. I’ve lived a very honest life.