A memorial service for Harold Brainard Simmons, who died in Pasadena, California, on April 23, 2020, will be held Friday, August 6, 2021, at 11 a.m., at Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home, 110 Limerock Street, Rockland. A reception will follow immediately.
To read a full obituary or share a memory with the Simmons family, please visit their Book of Memories at www.bchfh.com.
ROCKLAND — Harold Brainard Simmons – beloved son, husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, friend, and mentor – died in Pasadena, California, on April 23, 2020. He was surrounded in his last days by his wife, Janet; his children, Geoffrey and Jessica; and his three grandchildren, Olivia, Sophie, and Cameron.
Born at Knox Hospital in Rockland, on December 2, 1944, Harold was the third child of Noela Levesque Simmons and Carl W. Simmons.
Harold was proud of his French heritage and grew up enjoying trips with his parents and sister, Corinne, to visit his aunts, uncles, and cousins in Lewiston and Auburn. He was also proud of his father’s entrepreneurship – Carl opened several restaurants in Maine and invented the lobster roll at “Sim’s Lunch” in the early 1920s (this menu item proved to be so popular that his mayonnaise supplier started manufacturing one-gallon tubs for the first time!). Harold spent many hours researching his Simmons genealogy and discovered that he was a descendant of Moses Simonson, who emigrated to Massachusetts in the 1630s.
Harold grew up in the Masonic Street neighborhood where, at five years old, he met lifelong friends Peter Libbey and Peter Hart. He was also friends with his future wife, Janet Jordan, and remembered sledding with her on Masonic Street hill in the early 1950s.
Harold was a member of the last class to graduate from Rockland High School, in 1962, when it was located on Lincoln Street. As a teenager, he worked as an usher at the Strand Theatre on Main Street and was thrilled with its beautiful restoration in 2005.
He enlisted in the Navy in 1963, during the Vietnam war era, and was stationed in Newport, Rhode Island, on the USS Arcadia. He was honorably discharged in 1967. He enjoyed telling the story of his time at the Pentagon as a student of safecracking, eventually learning that his friend and mentor, Phil Sulides – designated personal reference and proprietor of Harold’s favorite place in the world, Phil’s Pool Hall – had been visited by a Pentagon official checking up on Harold’s credentials and character. He apparently passed muster.
After his military service, Harold returned to Rockland, where he earned his Master Electrician license, subsequently joining Rockland Electric where he became great friends with Neil Novika. He worked at Martin Marietta from 1971–1983, making lasting friendships including those with Howard Meserve and Myron Preston.
In 1970, after a brief stint as sternman on a lobster boat off Criehaven Island, Harold married his childhood sweetheart, Janet. Together, the two would raise their children in Harold’s family “homestead” on Masonic.
Harold’s second career was as assistant code officer for the City of Rockland. These were happy and fulfilling years, first as assistant to Dave Kalloch and later to John Root. He had great respect for both men and considered them not just work colleagues but good friends. He made many other friends over the years working for the City. After a brief stint as a real estate salesman, he retired in 2006.
At the time of his passing, Harold and Janet had known each other for 70 years and would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in October (he loved to declare to folks that Janet was older – by nine months). They had lived in Pasadena over the winter for the past ten years, spending this time with their grandchildren and son.
Harold had many interests and talents. A gifted woodcarver, he was asked by the Farnsworth Museum to contribute work to a 1975 retrospective on John Bellamy (1836–1914), New England’s most famous carver. But besides family and friends, his greatest passion in life was the study and preservation of local history. He joined the Rockland Historical Society in the 1980s. After serving on the Board of Directors and as vice president, he was elected president in 2002, a post he held for 11 years. Friend Brian Harden recalls this period as “a time of great progress and change.”
Harold was a passionate student of Maine’s nautical history and contributed to several books, including a history of the Red Jacket schooner. He also served on the board of directors of the Maine Lighthouse Museum and was a lifetime member of Rockland Elks Lodge #1008 (BPOE). His work as a champion of local history will be long remembered in the hometown of which he was always proud.
Harold was beloved by many. He was generous with his time – always happy, for example, to drive a friend to a distant medical appointment. He believed that everyone deserved to be treated with dignity and respect, and as such, possessed tremendous listening skills and a quiet patience that accompanied them. Never one to recycle the opinions of others, he was considered an original thinker on topics as diverse as local ordinances and global politics. He loved escaping from “the big city” to spend time with his family, friends, and “grand-doggers” at the family cottage in Cushing, where his renowned storytelling skills were often on display.
He will be deeply missed.
Harold was predeceased by his parents; infant brother, Lewis Simmons; dear niece Rachel Daggett; brother-in-law Scott Jordan; cousin and friend, Lee Levesque; and close friends Horace Grover and Mike Yencso.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Janet; son, Geoffrey and children Olivia, Sophie, and Cameron, and their mother Susan Blaisdell; his daughter, Jessica, her husband Rand Ardell, and her stepson Owen; his sister, Corrine Daggett (Malcolm); nieces Ellen Daggett Medrano (Rey) and Tracy Street (Paul); nephews Ben Angulo, Lloyd Daggett (Anna), Tom Daggett, Wesley Daggett (Ann), Scott Jordan, and Scott Mayer (Ann); sister-in-law Raeberta Myers (Philip); sister-in-law Maryann Blaisdell; close friend Larry Goldman; and many grandnieces, grandnephews, cousins, and friends.
A celebration of his life will be held at a later date. Arrangements are in the care of Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home, Rockland.
In lieu of flowers, friends are asked to make a donation in Harold’s name to the Acquisitions Fund, Rockland Historical Society, PO Box 1331, Rockland, ME 04841.
To share a memory or story with Harold’s family, please visit their online Book of Memories at www.bchfh.com.