By Rich Pollack
DELRAY BEACH — Ernie Simon, the grandson of Delray Beach pioneers, loved the city he grew up in so much that he crafted two plays about it and wrote annual Christmas productions that brought the community together.
Most of all, however, he loved being around people.
“I don’t think Ernie ever met anybody he didn’t think was his best friend,” said his brother Roy Simon.
An attorney who served as Delray Beach’s municipal judge decades ago and a playwright who brought his love of the city to the stage through scripts he crafted, Mr. Simon died Jan. 28. He was 94.
A member of Delray Beach’s Simon family — which helped settle the town in 1912 with the arrival of his grandfather — Mr. Simon continued to practice law well into his 90s and remained active in the community until shortly before his death.
“Ernie was caring, loving and always very sincere,” said his longtime law partner, David Schmidt. “With very rare exceptions, he never had a bad word to say about anybody. The guy didn’t have a mean bone in his body.”
Born in Delray Beach, Mr. Simon attended Delray Beach Elementary School and Delray Beach High School, which are now part of Old School Square. Mr. Simon played three sports in high school and was a quarterback and end on the Seahawks football team.
After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Mr. Simon graduated from Bucknell University and later received a law degree from the University of Miami. His career led him to West Palm Beach, but he returned to Delray in 1967 and opened his law practice. He would serve as a Delray municipal judge for 10 years.
Mr. Simon held leadership roles in many civic organizations over the decades, including the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Drug Abuse Foundation of Palm Beach County.
He was on the board of the Rotary Club of Delray Beach — serving as president several times — and on the boards of the Mae Volen Senior Center and Palm Beach State College. He also served with the vestry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
But Mr. Simon made what may have been his most impactful contributions to community at the Delray Beach Playhouse. He served as president of that board seven times and acted in 65 productions, including annual Christmas plays that he wrote.
He also wrote two plays — Delray How I Love You and From Linton with Love — that he produced.
“I always thought he wanted to be a playwright instead of a lawyer,” Schmidt said.
People familiar with Mr. Simon’s work at the playhouse say he always stood out on the stage.
“He was Delray’s best actor,” said Tony Allerton, who served on the playhouse board with Mr. Simon as well as on the boards of the Drug Abuse Foundation and of the local Rotary club. “He had a marvelous sense of humor, perfect timing and was excellent in every production he appeared in at the Delray Playhouse.”
Roy Simon said his brother might have made the theater a career had family priorities not prevailed. “Under different conditions, he could have ended up in Hollywood.”
Mr. Simon is survived by his three brothers, Roy, Charles and Sandy, his close friend and cousin Zicky Simon, as well as nine nephews, three nieces and 15 grandnephews. His wife of 54 years, Norma, died in 2014.
Funeral services were held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church last month, and donations may be made in Mr. Simon’s memory to two of his favorite charities: the Delray Beach Playhouse Ernest G. Simon Scholarship Award Fund, and the Drug Abuse Foundation of Palm Beach County.