Bob Simmons: Joyful gentleman journalist
Bob Simmons was a great broadcaster and a passionate gardener. He dug up dirt in his beloved backyard woods and would dig up dirt at city hall as he relentlessly held government officials accountable. Bob passed away on June 15. That day was the 62nd anniversary of marriage to his beautiful wife Dee. And it was three days shy of his 89th birthday.
In the 1970s, Bob worked for the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles and opened their Sacramento bureau. He was known for always asking the tough questions, for being a watchdog of government, and for the tenacity and hard work that made him one of the finest broadcast journalists.
When I started at KING-5 in 1983, Bob was a long-time pro who couldn’t possibly have been more gracious and friendly to the new intern in the sports department.
Bob also delivered one of the greatest lines I had ever heard in the newsroom. KING had a young reporter who was known for being sensationalistic in his delivery. One day, Bob was at his desk tapping away at his keyboard when the reporter loudly declared, “I’m not a journalist, I’m a ratings machine.” Bob simply replied, loud enough for all to hear, “Well, you’re half right.”
As terrific as he was as a broadcaster, Bob was an even better neighbor. My wife and I were newlyweds, we hadn’t yet had any children, but we knew we didn’t want our kids going to Seattle Public Schools. So we started looking at the suburbs. One beautiful spring Saturday, we were rolling around Lake Forest Park in my VW bug convertible. Bob and his wife, Dee, were out working in their yard and we popped in for a visit. We fell in love with the neighborhood. I asked Bob to let me know if any houses on their street ever went on the market.
He told me that he would, but that it was very unlikely. They had lived there for more than a decade and they were still the newcomers on the block.
One week later – kismet!
The Simmons’ next-door neighbor was going to have to sell her house. It was a tiny one-bedroom, one-bath shack in the woods, which was perfect because that was all we could afford. We added on to that house and 15 years later bought and knocked down a house down the street and built our current house. Because of Bob and Dee, my family has called LFP home for more than 30 years.
Bob was the perfect neighbor. He owned every tool imaginable and was always willing to not only loan them out, but to teach me how to use them.
Our first week in our new shack, my wife and I were feeling overwhelmed as we were hacking away at a half-acre of blackberry bushes. Like angels of mercy, Bob and Dee arrived with a pitcher of lemonade for their new neighbors. It seemed like everything they did was kind and well-timed.
Bob and Dee were surrogate grandparents for our three girls. All the neighborhood kids were enthralled by the Simmons’ warmth and guidance and good humor.
Bob and I carved walking trails in our adjoining backyard woods. He taught me how he built a pond in his woods – a passion I still have today. He stocked his with koi and built them an underwater stone-shelf where they could hide from critter predators.
He filled the nature-education gaps that this city kid had never learned.
Passionate, joyful, and diligent in everything he did. Bob Simmons was a life very-well lived.