Superlatives flowed easily as friends and acquaintances of Marie N. Simons, who died Saturday discussed her impact on the community and their lives.
People were quick to describe the longtime civic and social leader as gracious, regal, stately, warm, charming and instrumental in the establishment of many worthwhile projects for Kansas University and Lawrence.
Tom Murray, local attorney and former school board member long associated with the Simons family and their long ties with the Arthur and Nell Weaver family.
"I have known Mrs. Simons since childhood," Murray said. "She has always been and will remain in my memory as an elegant lady in the truest sense of that word. She was both beautiful and charming and had a very positive impact on everyone who knew her. The likes of Marie Simons and Nell Weaver will never come our way again. They were down to earth but at same time were always ladies with vision and compassion. The word 'lady' to me means something special, and Marie Simons was all that and more."
Said Dick Wintermote, former leader of the Kansas University Alumni Association: "Marie has always been a very perfect hostess and helpmate for things that the men in her family did. She always stood right with them, supported them in every way and had much to do with all the successes of the family. I think most knew the men better than she but that does not diminish her role. She was deeply devoted to KU, and along with her husband and son (Dolph C. Simons Jr.) has been a tremendous contributor to us all. She was really something ... a truly gracious lady always with best interests of KU and Lawrence in mind."
Jim Owens, former Owens Flower Shop owner, is the only person in Lawrence ever to be a city commissioner-mayor, school board member-president and president of the chamber of commerce.
"One of the first things I remember is that she loved flowers and bought so many," Owens said. "She'd always cheerfully come in the back door because she wanted to pick out and arrange her own flowers. It was great. We never had to wait on her. She knew where everything was, would make her arrangements and then come out, write the ticket, visit a bit and be on her way. She did all her own arranging and all her own work. Easy customer. What a great gal, always, ever gracious, always making everybody feel good with that wonderful smile and gentle way. No strangers. Great woman."
Glee Smith, longtime state senator and former Board of Regents member and chairman: "Marie was one of the most genteel ladies I've ever known. ... Marie was also a fine writer like Dolph, and some letters of hers that we saved prove that. ... She was a great lady."
Gene Budig, former Kansas University chancellor now residing in Princeton, N.J.: "She was so very special to me. Marie Simons cared deeply about the University of Kansas and the people of Lawrence over the years. She was an elegant person who had a unique brand of class. Without question, she made life better for many in a way that never brought attention to herself. She was a unique pioneer."
Edith Marie (Darby) Evans, daughter of former Sen. and Mrs. Harry Darby and widow of Ray Evans, Jayhawk All-American athlete: "Marie and Dolph (Sr.) were wonderful to Ray and me and helped us in so many, many ways. ... We were always thrilled to go to their house for various events, and we admired her so very much. She was truly a classy, majestic lady who did so many things so well, graciously and with such amazing ease. We were, fortunately, in close touch with her over the years. ... Marie and Dolph stayed informed on everything, politics included. They were a great couple who were deeply loved and will always be missed."
Monte Johnson, former KU athlete, athletic director and businessman long associated with the Simons family: "Marie Simons was an amazing, regal, dignified, stately and classy woman with such a depth of positive contributions to our community. My relationship goes back to the 1960s and there were countless wonderful contacts with her and Dolph Sr. and the rest of the family. She truly had a regal quality about her. ... She was warm, friendly and always put people around her at ease. ... Marie always had a warm smile and had that great the ability to make anyone feel important, at ease and welcome. I'm blessed to have been associated often with the Simons family. Marie and Dolph could make everyone feel important, regardless of their state in society. You could always depend on them. They never seemed to change."
Archie Dykes, former KU chancellor now residing in Nashville, Tenn.: "My wife, Nancy, and I learned early on that Marie Simons was one of the most gracious, thoughtful ladies one could ever meet. If there is one word that describes her, it is 'gracious.' ... The world is unfortunate to lose someone with the majesty and charm of Marie. Many wonderful things occurred for us over the years because of Marie and her many wonderful qualities. She was the epitome of a a great lady and represented all the wonderful things such people are noted for. There is great sadness with us over her loss."
Joan (Darby) Edwards, daughter of Sen. and Mrs. Harry Darby and widow of Roy Edwards, long active in KU activities along with his wife: "Marie was a very dear person and I'll always treasure our long-standing relationship with her and Dolph and their families. ... Marie was lovely, gracious and charming and one of the greatest friends anyone could ever have. Whenever I think of her, the term 'beautiful' keeps emerging because she was that type of human being through and through."
Jordan Haines, banking executive, former Kansas Regents leader, alumni association chief and a major alumni supporter of KU: "The first time I met Marie and Dolph Simons Sr. was in 1946 when as a Phi Delt I was rushing their son, Dolph Jr. ... Marie was the epitome of a lovely lady, in the strictest sense of the term. She was always gracious and, almost unintentionally because she did it with such ease, a major factor in the successes of her family. She was not an intrusive type but she was a gracious, lovely force for good. Her community and family benefited immeasurably from her presence and guidance, and I've always been terribly fond of her. She was always thoughtful and constantly extended herself to help people lead a better life, just a marvelous, gracious, wonderful lady who accomplished so very much."
Todd Seymour, longtime chief executive of the Kansas University Endowment Association: "Thoughts of Marie Simons immediately bring to mind three important aspects of her contributions. One was that she was always a total, absolute and complete lady, with a poise and presence that made people around her comfortable. Two, was that she always seemed to be so tastefully and impeccably dressed, whatever the occasion, a truly beautiful person at ease with herself. Three, I forever marveled at the way she and her husband, Dolph Sr., excelled in any administrative situation. It seemed they could get anything done productively. They complemented each other so wonderfully, and I feel blessed that I knew them so well. The university and the community benefited immeasurably from their great input and involvement for so many years."