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Obit -- Marvin W. 'Si' Simonson

by jmaloni
Thu, Sep 2nd 2010 01:00 pm

Marvin W. "Si" Simonson, a renowned area photographer, died at home on Aug. 30, 2010, at age 89.

Many people will have fond memories of him as they look at their wedding albums and family photographs. He loved his work and was a master at black and white photography, a lost art. He and his wife worked together in their studio and retired after 57 years in 2007.

He was one of four sons born in Duluth, Minn., on March 30, 1921, to Leander "Louis" and Margaret (Anderson) Simonson. His father immigrated to the United States from a Swedish settlement in Finland.

After graduating from Denfield High School in 1939, his first job was a Western Union messenger delivering singing telegrams. He moved on to become a news photographer and reporter for the Duluth Herald Tribune.

During World War II, Simonson served in Europe as a staff sergeant in the Signal Corps with the 65th Infantry Division in Gen. Patton's Army. After the war, he attended the School of Photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1946. There he met his future wife, Mamie, from Niagara Falls, literally in the darkroom. That led to marriage in 1949 and the start of their portrait studio on Main Street in Niagara Falls, and later on Whirlpool Street in 1955.

In 1959, when the Power Authority condemned all the homes on Whirlpool Street to make way for the new Parkway, Simonson protested the eminent domain procedures. Representing himself against a team of Power Authority attorneys, Simonson won the case. His victory prompted one opposing state attorney to remark publicly, "What the photographic profession gained with Mr. Simonson, the legal profession lost."

Before moving to Lewiston in 1961, Simonson and his wife spent nine months working in California for a portrait studio, deciding there was no better place to live than Western New York. Simonson always enjoyed meeting a variety of people and especially loved Niagara Falls and Goat Island.

In the early 1990s, Si and Mamie helped organize the Lewiston Beautification Commission, which began the Center Street flower project. In 2004 they were awarded the Lewiston Citizens of the Year Civic Award. Simonson enjoyed photographing Center Street and local shops during the seasons. He considered himself fortunate to make a living doing what he loved to do.

Simonson was the recipient of many photographic awards and was a life member, and former president, of the Buffalo/Niagara Section of the New York State Professional Photographers Association. He was also a former member of the Niagara Falls Rotary Club and was a dedicated volunteer for the Historical Association of Lewiston.

Si is survived by his loving wife of 60 years, Mamie C. (Maroon) Simonson, and was the proud and gentle father of three children: Lee (Brenda) Simonson of Lewiston, Sarah (David) Stokes of Milwaukee and Mary (Paul) Jennings of San Diego; and the grandfather of six: Jill and Robin Simonson (Miller), Jay and Eva Stokes, Julia Wilson and Megan Jennings. He is survived by dozens of nieces and nephews. Three brothers, Harvey, Lyle and William Simonson, predeceased Si.

In the ultimate act of selflessness, Si donated his body to science.

The family will receive friends at the Barton Hill Hotel, 100 Center St., Lewiston, on Sunday, Sept. 12, from 2-5pm. Flowers are gratefully declined. Donations may be made to the Historical Association of Lewiston (Freedom Crossing Monument Fund), PO Box 43, Lewiston, NY 14092, or to Niagara Hospice, 4675 Sunset Drive, Lockport, NY 14094.

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