Wednesday, April 23, 2014
WATERVILLE — Walter Simcock, a longtime area business owner, philanthropist and community friend, died early Tuesday morning from complications related to pneumonia. He was 88.
TOGETHER: Walter Simcock is surrounded by former Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce employees Audrey Harding, left, and Jill Van Gorden.
Known throughout the community as someone who loved to help children and the arts, Simcock donated his time and money to several Waterville events and nonprofit groups, including Waterville Main Street, the Taste of Greater Waterville, Mount Merici Academy and the Waterville Opera House.
“Walter was a shining star to so many people in our region,” said Kimberly Lindlof, president of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, who knew Simcock for 25 years. “He was enormously generous, but that doesn’t even begin to sum up Walter. He touched so many lives.”
While he gave much of his time and money to local endeavors, Simcock was the same giving, lovable man at home, according to his son, Stephen Simcock.
“Who he was as a dad was very much the same as his public self,” Stephen Simcock said. “He was a consummate people person. Anything he did that would help others made him happy.”
Simcock owned and operated Colonial Distributors, a beverage distribution company, for 42 years until he sold it in 2002, building the company up from bankruptcy to a thriving, multi-million dollar business. Simcock started the business with six people when he bought it in 1960, growing it to 125 employees by 2002.
In 2010, the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce honored him with the annual Distinguished Community Service Award. The award is given to someone who has demonstrated leadership, resourcefulness and unselfishness toward the economic development of mid-Maine.
Simcock enjoyed helping the area’s young people, giving money and time to Mount Merici Academy, the Alfond Youth Center and St. John Regional Catholic School. Often, Simcock would spend money so that others could enjoy Waterville’s attractions, like the Taste of Greater Waterville.
“A few years back, Walter bought 300 tickets for the Taste of Waterville and handed them out to people,” Lindlof said. “He would always sponsor the children shows at the opera house, which allowed school children to attend the shows for little or nothing.”
Barbara Allen, the director of donor relations at Waterville Opera House, recalled Simcock’s joyful demeanor and how personable he was.
“What he enjoyed was giving back to the community,” Allen said. “We became very good friends because of his relationship with the opera house.”
Simcock was always upbeat and positive, ending every conversation with a term of endearment such as “darlin’” or “sweets,” Lindlof said. Even in the last days of his life, Simcock found tranquility in the positive developments of Waterville.
“When I visited him in the hospital a couple of days ago, he wanted to know what good things were happening,” Lindlof said. “He believed in the people of Waterville and the work the nonprofits were doing.”
One of Simcock’s greater passions in Waterville was the work at Mount Merici Academy, where all four of Simcock’s children and at least half a dozen grandchildren attended. Sue Cote, the school’s principal, knew Simcock for 25 years and said the school was mourning the loss of a close friend.
“Walter was a loved member of our school community,” Cote said, adding that Simcock was at the school during Christmastime, donating money that the school used to buy smart boards for its classrooms.
“I think Walter is someone that saw needs in our community and did what he could to alleviate that,” she said.
When Simcock was admitted to the hospital, Cote said students at Mount Merici Academy made get well cards that were delivered to Simcock.
“He loved being around people and took great joy in children,” Cote said. “Walter was a man of an extremely generous heart.”
A native of Cambridge, Mass., Simcock grew up in Boston’s West End, bouncing around different grade schools before graduating from Watertown High School in 1944. Simcock graduated from Springfield College in 1950, where he majored in education before studying guidance and personnel at Boston University. During college, Simcock dabbled in stand-up comedy to support himself, according to his son.
“His single greatest trait was his sense of humor,” Stephen Simcock said. “He never lost it, even up until the day he died.”
Simcock met his wife, Mary, while in Boston when she was a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1960 they moved to Waterville.
In Waterville, Simcock was deeply involved in the community, serving as the chairman of the chamber’s Board of Directors and as king lion of the Waterville Lion’s Club.
“Walter was a perfect citizen,” said Karen Heck, mayor of Waterville. “He was a supporter of this city and his presence will be missed.”
Simcock is survived by three of his children, Cheryl Zimmer, Stephen Simcock and Walli Fitton, his eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Visiting hours at Veilleux Funeral Home for Simcock are set for Thursday from 5-8 p.m. and Friday from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. His funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Sacred Heart Parish.