Reflections From Simon on His 98th Birthday

Reston founder on his toddler opera performance, mountain climbing and the future.

Tuesday is Robert E. Simon's 98th birthday.

Reston Patch asked the nonagenarian to give us some of his earliest memories, a look at what is on his bucket list and to give us a few thoughts on what the future holds for his planned new town, which is celebrating its 48th year.

Restonians will celebrate both at the

Reston Patch: What is your earliest memory?

Robert E. Simon: My problem is to differentiate between what I remember actually or what I remember hearing. I probably don't remember anything.

The earliest thing I did: I was two years, three months and I sang opera.

My mother returned from the hospital with a new and last baby. To celebrate, my aunt—who was really something—wanted to do something special. She took care of her extra energy by dragooning people for home theatricals, so we did Hansel and Gretel.

We all had costumes, and I was a the dew fairy. I had wings and a dress. I had memorized my aria. So I got out to do it, but standing behind my mother was a guy with a full black beard, and I had never seen him. So I figured sitting on my mother's lap was more important than my role on the stage. So they never heard me deliver the aira.

RP: What's on your bucket list? 

RES: Well there are things I wish I had done. I wish I had taken tennis lessons  when I was very small. Because I never took tennis lessons. I played a lot of tennis but I was no damn good at it. And the thing, is for some reason I thought taking lessons was sissy. 

I would have liked to do more mountain climbing. I loved the little I did.

I had a geriatric trip (in the 1980s) to Annapura, right next to Everest. There were sherpas and tents, the whole thing. In the morning, which I do remember, the sherpa would pinch your toe. You would climb out of the tent and there would be hot tea and then you would stand there and look at Everest.

Of course, I would have met my wife Cheryl earlier, only that would have been impossible—she is 30 years younger. I would have been arrested.

RP: What about Reston. Some things have gone right and some things have gone wrong. If there is anything in Reston you could do over, what would it be?

RES: The governance. We had our New York lawyers research homeowners associations. What they came up with was the best homeowners association that ever was. But that is not what we needed, seeing how it is on a unit basis (everyone pays the same) and it should be on an ad valorem (pay by according to property value).

RP: What do you hope happens here at Lake Anne?

that is closing April 30. I am far from ready to predict. But there are a couple of problems.

The county has done its thing. Bless the county. We've got the right to do the right thing. The only problem is someone has tied up Fellowship House. 

If you look at either side of Village Road, huge amounts of land on both sides that are ready for development. One side is and the other is all this land. So clearly, that offers an opportunity to make a statement (on either side).

The other problem, I really don't know how (Eve and Rick) Thompson are going to be able to organize the 130-odd owners of Lake Anne of Reston Condo Owners (commercial and residential owners at the Village Center).

All I can say I can't imagine anyone better for the job. They have been doing all kinds of things, but whether any of them will make any sense, I don't know. 

They can't change anything at I think it is as close to perfect as you can get. They are not going to change a brick of this. Got to stay the same—it is historic. Unfortunately, Lake Anne, Hickory and Waterview Cluster—that is the only place for good architecture in all of Reston. Went downhill after 1967.

RP: You once said your secret for longevity is a dry martini every day. Is that still the key?

RES: That and a walk around Lake Anne, 5.5 days a week. When it rains, I don't walk. 

RP: The Metro is scheduled to open here in a year and a half. Are ou excited to see the project coming to fruition?

RES: Seven years ago, I got a hold of (then-Congressman) Tom Davis. and I begged him not to let Tysons Corner hijack the project. It happened. The result is that instead of having the thing under construction—if not finished—and paid for by the federal government—at the moment, it is going to stop at Wiehle, period, because both Loudoun and Fairfax have said even if they put up the money they are expected to put up, the major thing is the money is going to devolve on to the drivers.

What kind of idea is that the drivers should pay for the Metro?

RP: So do you agree with Reston 2020 that Fairfax should not sign off on this?

RES: I don't pay any attention to 2020. But I don't think drivers should pay any of it. Should be paid for by the Airport Authority. It's their road!

RP: So do you think Wiehle will be the end of the line?

RES: No, but I think it will delayed—five years, 10 years. It will happen.

Want to wish Simon a happy birthday? Attend Founders Day or leave your greetings in the comments below.

Also, The

Karen Goff April 10, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Yes, sorry noon at Lake Anne. I will link the mention to the details from our calendar.
Stu Gibson April 10, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Bob, I am so privileged not only to be able to live in the community you designed, but to know you and learn from you. Stu Gibson
Cherie Lejeune April 10, 2012 at 05:52 PM
OK who can top not just founding a Town but seeing it grow and thrive for almost a half a century and, I cannot leave out an almost Dew Fairy. Wings it seems have been a lifelong association as you never stopped “flying" be it for adventure or civic commitment....so, I’ll add another Happy Birthday to you... .and now for those reading this other than BOB, I need volunteers: 2-3 people with laptops or iPads for 20 minutes to be at Hunter Woods Community Center or The Canteen Reston Town Center. Simple task, and a nice way to help facilitate (wish I was there) “greetings”. email me: Cherie digiboomer@gmail.com or call: 203-400-3668 Thank you!
Rabbi Fajnland April 10, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Hi Bob, I trust youe Seder went well:) hope to pop over before your B-day, otherwise feel good and Happy Birthday! RF
Stella McEnearny April 20, 2012 at 02:57 AM
A very happy and healthy albeit belated birthday to you, Mr. Simon! You're a real inspiration...and here's wishing you endless more treks around Lake Anne and lovely dry martinis :)


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