Art Simons, who died aged 94 on March 3, was an artist, a cartoonist, a fine singer, a longtime Salt Spring Islander, and a quiet activist.
Art was born in Kitchener, Ontario in 1925, spending his youth in Mimico (now part of Toronto). He volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1944, but had the good fortune to not be sent overseas. After the war, he did sign-painting work, enrolled in the Ontario College of Art, and married Margaret Graham, a fellow art student. From 1953-54 Art, Marg, and their newborn son Bob lived in a small cottage in the Toronto Islands; they decided to move to Vancouver when the city began to demolish houses on their island.
Art continued to paint for pleasure when not painting signs for gas stations, building up a portfolio of work (mainly watercolours). Two more sons were born — Ken in 1956 and Wayne in 1963. The family moved to Fulford in the fall of 1966, and Art began work on building a two-winged A-frame at the top of Hilltop Road. It became home to Art and Marg for the next 47 years.
Art drew a weekly one-panel cartoon for the Driftwood for several years up to 1972. The collected Salty cartoons (named for its principal character, a retired ship captain) were also published as an annual, with short comic essays by Art, publisher Frank Richards, and Ed Gould.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Salt Spring became known as a friendly place of refuge for US draft resisters. Art and Marg’s house was a first port of call for many of them, who would stay for a night or a week and then move on to more permanent digs. We remember playing touch football with war resisters on the steep dirt road in front of the house, with half of the action following American rules, and the other half Canadian.
The 1980s saw a blossoming of talent and activism for both our parents. Marg’s involvement in the Peace Petition Caravan, the Raging Grannies, and Voice of Women for Peace was quietly supported by Art, who drew graphics and ad layouts for a wide variety of campaigns: his most enduring illustration was perhaps the Salt Spring Raging Grannies’ “old lady with umbrella and hat” logo.
From the Vancouver Marathon to his daily (or at worst, weekly) 10-kilometre run from Fulford Harbour to the end of Burgoyne Road and back, Art was a one-person advertisement for healthy living. He also found time for music, lending his tenor voice to some of Ray and Virginia Newman’s musical endeavours.
When son Bob was dying of cerebral encephalitis at 45, Art gently took care of his body, as we may imagine he would have done with a newborn.
Art is survived by his wife of 67 years, Marg; sons Ken and Wayne; and seven grandchildren. Special thanks to Kate Peter for her weekly visits to, and dedication and love for, Art and Marg.