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 Smitty Simons

In memory of Smitty Simons
April 16, 1942—July 13, 1999

My Uncle Smitty was my mom’s sister’s husband and my dad’s best friend. My family and Aunt Brenda and Uncle Smitty’s family lived on the same street when I was growing up, and were in and out of one another’s houses as if they were our own.

The thing I’ll always remember about my Uncle Smitty is that he could do just about anything. He was a master at fixing things, putting things together and building things. He loved to race cars and boats, and along with my dad, was always building the latest car to take to the local drag strip. Between the two of them, they could fix whatever needed fixing, but working on their cars was what they loved most.

On Thanksgiving Day 1998, Uncle Smitty got out his old recorder from his school days to entertain his family. And he couldn’t remember how to play. For his daughter, my cousin Shane, it was the first sign that something was amiss. Over the next several weeks, my Aunt Brenda noticed Tylenol in his lunch box, and she knew something was wrong. He prided himself on never taking medicine unless it was absolutely necessary.

On February 13, 1999, Smitty suffered a seizure at home, and was taken to the local hospital in western Kentucky. He was later diagnosed with glioblastoma, and underwent surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. There were complications with the surgery, and the Smitty who could do anything, couldn’t anymore. On July 13, 1999, five months after his diagnosis, Uncle Smitty died. He was 57 years old. Months later, his younger sister was diagnosed with glioblastoma also. She fared a little better than her brother, and survived a bit over a year, but ultimately lost her battle as well.

Our family didn’t know about the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Center in 1999. I am so encouraged to learn of the successes they’ve had and the hope they instill. In this year’s Angels Among Us event, our team will run not only for my Uncle Smitty, but for his children, my cousins Shane and Steven, to give them hope.


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DUMC Box 3624 • Durham, North Carolina 27710