Soccer field

Football field will honor New Yorker who called Fort Kent home for 40 years

FORT KENT, Maine — The football field at the University of Maine at Fort Kent will be named after a beloved community figure who passed away on June 30.

Michael Isaac Simon came from New York to Fort Kent nearly 40 years ago to attend UMFK and never left. The field, formerly known as Alumni Memorial Field, will be named Michael Simon Field.

Simon, who was 63 when he died of a heart attack, had lived in a basement apartment at the Northern Door Inn motel since 1983, when he moved to Fort Kent to attend school. He frequented college football games and practices, campus and city libraries, and local restaurants.

Simon’s family is making a donation in his memory for new lights on the varsity soccer field in recognition of his unique connection to the community he established. The family has also supported the university in other ways over the years, to thank the community that embraced Simon.

“My family is and has been deeply grateful to Fort Kent. Our support for UMFK is a token of that appreciation,” said Simon’s brother, Jamil.

The University of Maine football field at Fort Kent will be named Michael Simon Field, in honor of a Fort Kent resident who moved here 40 years ago to attend college and died on the 30th June. From left to right are UMFK Foundation President Stephanie Chick, President Deborah Hedeen, Jamil Simon, Athletic Director Carly Flowers and Development Manager Shannon Lugdon. Credit: Courtesy of the University of Maine at Fort Kent

Jamil Simon said he doesn’t know why his brother chose to go to college all those years ago, but he’s been fascinated by Maine since he was a child – despite the family never visiting it before he goes to school.

He said the family had always been supportive of Simon’s decision to make a living in the small northern Maine town, and he visited Simon from New York three times a year, staying at the inn that housed the apartment. of his brother.

“Fort Kent was so good for Mike,” Jamil Simon said. “He could walk almost anywhere, and he loved the city and the people so much.”

In his brother’s obituary, Jamil Simon quoted him as saying, “I love my apartment and my city and would rather be here than anywhere else in the world.”

The soccer lights aren’t the first donation the Simon family has made to the university.

The family made a substantial donation to support the construction of Nadeau Hall, which is named after a family who lived near the hotel and became close to Mike Simon.

Simon particularly enjoyed petting the Nadeau family’s golden retriever, Portia. Jamil Simon said his brother loved dogs and felt close to God.

“He wasn’t easily touched or hugged but could physically communicate with a dog,” Jamil Simon said.

The Simon family also established the Michael Simon Scholarship Fund in 2010 and last year provided money to 15 university students. They were chosen based on the need to bring their debt to the university below the threshold that would prevent them from enrolling, even if they graduated.

The Simon family also mentioned several area residents in the obituary, including Northern Door Inn assistant manager Laurie Michaud and former Fort Kent police chief Tom Pelletier.

Michaud would sew buttons on Simon’s pants for him, and she and manager Carl Pelletier and Northern Door Inn owner-manager Paul Bouchard would drive him to doctor’s visits and other appointments—as did Tom Pelletier.

“He will definitely be missed around here,” said Michaud.

Simon kept up to date with the news and talked about it with Tom Pelletier. He also liked to give recommendations to people from the menus of restaurants in the city. He particularly loved the baked stuffed salmon from Barry’s Kitchen, the former chef said.

“Michael was a kind and gentle soul,” he said.

Another of Mike Simon’s favorite restaurants was Al’s Dairy Freeze.

Al’s employee of 21 years, Derek Desjardin, said Simon, an avid Detroit Lions fan, was the person to contact to inquire about the sport.

“I used to play fantasy football and I would ask him who was injured and who wasn’t. He knew his lists; he could tell you the third quarterback on a team. He was a very intelligent man,” Desjardin said.

While Simon was loved by the people of Fort Kent, he also took a genuine interest in everyone he met.

Al’s employee Sholah Mullins said Simon made it a point to learn the names of everyone at the restaurant and would also ask about former employees to track them down.

Jamil Simon said his brother had already been tested at an IQ of 135 and had a huge command of organizing the outside world.

“He remembered everyone’s name and remembered their life details even though he hadn’t seen them for many years and remembered a lot of their family details,” Jamil Simon said. “It was really very, very touching.”

JoAnne O’Leary met Mike Simon in 1990 while working as a waitress at China Garden and her husband Kelly O’Leary was a college student. The O’Learys befriended Simon and had three children, all of whom Simon met.

Although they haven’t seen each other in 10 years, Mike met the O’Leary family at a local gas station a few months ago and never forgot the names of the now grown O’Leary children. .

“Mike spoke with both girls and was so happy to hear that they were both going to college to become nurses,” JoAnne O’Leary said. “Mike was an amazing man with the greatest character. I will think of Mike every time I see the UMFK soccer field lit up and remember how Mike lit up our five O’Leary hearts.