Rich passed into his mother’s arms on Jan. 16 at the Evergreen Hospice in Kirkland. after a long battle with cancer. It has been a long 30 years since she passed, but they are finally together again. He was the second of only two sons of Philip C. Simon and Dolores K. Skarberg. His mother was born and raised in Clinton and his father was born and raised in Langley. Both graduated from Langley High School in the early 1940s. Although he was born in Bellingham and grew up in Medina and Kirkland, he had Whidbey Island in his heart. From his beginning years at the beach and dock in front of Grandpa Simon’s house to the last few decades at the family property at the edge of Langley, he was here as often as he could.
He was proud and true to his Swedish/German heritage. He learned the sense of adventure, the value of thriftiness and the need to keep and fix any old thing — useful or not — from his mom and his namesake Grandpa Carl, who was born in Sweden and moved to the Island in the early 1910s. The German traits of the rewards of hard work, a strong business ethic and family responsibility came from his father. The genetic traits of fortitude, understanding of the relationship between physics/mechanics and problem solving came from his Grandpa G. Philip Simon, whose father was born in Germany and one of the earliest pioneer settlers of the Keystone Peninsula in South Puget Sound.
As a toddler, Rich and his brother together learned about the tides, forces of nature and marine life exploring the beach between grandpa’s house and Sandy Point. It’s not that easy to paddle a log against the tide and wind to get back home after the tide comes in. Later in the late ’50s his love of the sea was cemented with numerous family cruises throughout Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. Most notably exploring the mansion at Rosario — empty at the time, stumbling on the overgrown mausoleum outside Roche Harbor and hiking miles of deer trails on isolated islands long before those islands became popular.
Rich was one of the first graduates of the newly built Redmond High School in 1969. Initially he helped his parents operate their charter business — Northwest Marine Charters — on Lake Union. One of his duties was to pilot a yacht for a new client from Seattle to Alaska. His first non-family job was a pattern maker at the Boeing Renton plant. It only took a few months to realize he was not cut out for a corporate job. His supervisor told him he was working too fast and was not supposed to complete three patterns a day. He was told to slow down as the union requirement was one a day, and he was making the others look bad. He quit and went to work for a high school friend’s boat business, Walt Edson – BoatLand USA.
Rich became an excellent mechanic and wood worker/restorer. He could fix or repair any boat or car to the highest standards. For decades he ran his one-man boat repair and maintenance company “Elio Jupiter” out of his home shop in Clearview, Wash. He specialized in outdrive and inboard motor repair. He also did “house calls” for winterizing and rescue repairs. When he slowed down and retired, most of his customers asked “Who’s gonna fix my boat!”
The crowning glory of his restoration skills is evident in the two wooden 1958 boats he rescued. The 38-foot Chris Craft Corvette “Caprice,” named after his grandfather’s launch that he ran daily between Everett and Langley in the early days, was saved after it sank. His last project is a Chris Craft Capri inboard runabout that is a sight to behold. His wood-finishing skills can also be appreciated at his grandpa’s memorial park on the Langley waterfront. Rich came up with the idea and donated the stern of an old Chris Craft boat to create the sign at the park. He and his brother worked together to build and install that sign.
Rich is survived by his wife Kriss Higginbotham Simon of Clearview, beloved dog Bennie, brother Philip D. Simon and sister-in-law Judy Simon of Freeland, niece Amie Simon of Seattle, father Philip C. Simon of Issaquah and numerous lifelong friends. His ashes will be scattered in Saratoga Passage off Langley in a Viking ceremony according to his wishes. Rich will be sorely missed by many but will always be in our hearts and in every boat/car motor he saved when it fires up.