Friday, November 20, 2009

Writer Spotlight: Louis J. Simmons

(Editor’s Note: This is the obituary of Louis J. Simmons as printed in the Tupper Lake Free Press on Wednesday, April 5, 1995. He died on April 4, 1995.)

Louis J. Simmons, who for over six decades chronicled the news happenings of Tip Top Town and its residents, died Tuesday morning at his home at 12 Lake Street. He was transported by the Tupper Lake Rescue Squad to the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake where he was pronounced dead.

Louis John Simmons, who was 86, was born December 21, 1908 to a railroad family in Faust. He was one of eight children born to Mary Jane (Flanigan) and William Valentine Simmons. Louis was the last of the eight siblings. He was predeceased by his brothers Frank, Lawrence, Fred and Raymond, who died as a baby, and sisters Harriet Beige, Anne Frenette, and Ethel Girard.

He graduated from Tupper Lake High School in 1926 and then graduated cum laude from Syracuse University in 1930. He held Phi Kappa Phi honors with a bachelor of science degree in business administration-journalism.

He began his career with the Tupper Lake Free Press on Tuesday, July 7, 1932—little more than a day before the Free Press would hit the streets that week. From that day on, he would be a key ingredient in every issue that would be published for the next 50 years.

In 1938 he married Grace Oberlander of Syracuse in that city. His first wife, a long-time local librarian, died in 1968. On May 1, 1969 he and the former Marcia Irene Oberlander of Syracuse were married at St. Alphonsus Church in Tupper Lake. They have since resided at 12 Lake Street. In addition to his wife, Lou is survived by many nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews and great, great nieces and nephews.

Since 1932, the hometown newspaperman covered the news in Tupper Lake, not only as editor of the Tupper Lake Free Press, but as reporter for both the Watertown Daily Times and the Syracuse Post Standard. He alone covered the news beat during many of the years that followed.

When Louis retired from his part-time posts as correspondent for the dailies in the late 1970s, his superiors on those two papers had many good things to say about his career.

John B. Johnson, publisher of the Watertown Daily Times, wrote: “Louis’ reliability, as well as his accuracy, impressed three generations of editors on this newspaper. It was never necessary to verify what he wrote because he had already done it beforehand. Thus his stories moved from copy to the printed page virtually unchanged. His editors knew that his was accurate writing and reporting.”

The managing editor of the Syracuse Post Standard at that time, Robert Atkinson, said of Lou: “When I arrived in Saranac Lake as bureau correspondent 25 years ago, Lou Simmons had already become somewhat of a legend with more than 20 years service to the community. If there was ever a question about Tupper Lake raised, the response was always the same ... ask Lou Simmons.”

When Louis was not busy as editor or reporter, he volunteered his free time as town and village historian, two positions he held for more than 40 years. In a role virtually unchanged over the years, the Tupper Lake historian has been the link between the past and the present for many residents and former residents.

In recent years he has served as a member of the board of directors of the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library. He has represented Tupper Lake in thousands of pieces of correspondence or personal inquiries about the heritage of the village and town.

In 1976, Louis authored Tupper Lake’s historical best-seller “Mostly Spruce and Hemlock” in which the complete record of the development of Tupper Lake and the Town of Altamont was reported. He has also authored several publications for the town’s recent centennial and other community milestones over the years.

This July, Lou would have celebrated his 63rd anniversary at the Tupper Lake Free Press.

During his early years with the Tupper Lake Free Press, he knew and interviewed many of the men who pioneered the region and their reminiscences he filed in news clipping for historical reference. He continued in those endeavors until his death. Tupper Lake’s well known journalist retired from full-time service as editor of the Tupper Lake Free Press in 1979, and since then he has held the position of “editor emeritus”—working with the Free Press staff two days a week. He was at his desk in the Free Press office Monday.

In 1967 Louis was the recipient of the Franklin County Bar Association “Liberty Bell” award for community service. In 1979 he was distinguished as Tupper Lake’s “Citizen of the Year” at the annual chamber of commerce banquet.

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