The Niagara Falls Review
The one-of-a-kind Pat Simon
Pat Simon, who died last week at age 83, was a friend to many people in Niagara Falls. I consider myself fortunate to have been one of them.
Can’t really recall the first time we met, but Pat was the kind of guy who just made you feel welcomed.
If an event was happening in Niagara Falls, you could bet Pat would be in the crowd somewhere, snapping pictures. He liked his Nikon cameras. One could usually be found hanging around his neck, and another in his hand with his trigger finger on the shutter.
Review photographer Mike DiBattista and I would often go into the restaurant on Bridge St. for a quick lunch or just to talk to Pat. He was a wealth of information and knowledge.
Mike and I are in the news business, but Pat was the guy we turned to when we were looking for news or just wanted to make sure we were on the right track if we were following a certain story.
If the subject turned to photography, Pat would get up from his chair, head to the magazine section and give us the latest edition of Shutterbug, Modern Photography or American Photo.
Mike would often dig into his camera bag and leave Pat a few rolls of the latest film to try — yes, film. That goes to show you how far back Mike and I go with Pat.
Those who have been inside Simon’s Restaurant need no further explanation. There was no other place like it.
It wasn’t just a restaurant, it was a meeting place for people in the community and it didn’t matter if you were a judge, lawyer, politician, police officer, convicted criminal, bus driver or city worker.
Pat was always there, waiting with a smile. And Rosa, his wife of nearly 50 years, was ready to take your order.
If you wanted a coffee, just grab a cup and help yourself. Just like home. And Pat certainly made you feel at home.
Pat, Mike and I would always buy lottery tickets together. Mike and I would throw in a few dollars for the tickets after paying for our meal, but Pat would always throw in a few extra free tickets for us. Over the years, those lottery tickets could have wallpapered a room but the most the three of us ever won was $10 or $20.
Of course, that would go back into the pot to buy more tickets.
Everyone knows Pat was a bit of a collector. He collected everything. Stamps, coins, pins, licence plates, hub caps, duck decoys, pennies, baseball and hockey cards. He collected buttons, too.
Pat was generous and kind. You could never tell him you liked something, because he would be quick to shove it in your hand. Some took advantage of his kindness, but that didn’t matter to Pat. He wanted to make people happy.
If kids came into the restaurant, he would have a little basket of toys for them to play with. The little boys often ended up with a car or truck and the girls often received a doll.
With the restaurant being close to the train station and the bus depot, many strangers were fed a free meal if they didn’t have money. Friends were more important to Pat than money.
And he loved his cats. He had four in the house and looked after nine more that would hang around the restaurant or near the Whirlpool Bridge.
With the Niagara Falls police station being so close by, too, an officer would often stop in to pick up meals for prisoners in the cells. Besides the lunch, Pat would sometimes throw in some candy or a chocolate bar.
There will never be another Pat Simon. We who knew him miss him dearly.