Sim Wiest 1917-2009

Sim (my grandmother) died in her sleep this morning. Her real name was Myrtle but she would roll her eyes at me if she heard me say it. Everyone called her Sim.

When I was a kid I would wander around Sim and Bernie's house late at night. They were the quintessential beatniks and artists and the house was a magic place. I would be searching for clues to how it all worked. Maybe a secret passage? Perhaps it was a code hidden across the many treasures in the house. How did all of these little pieces add up to the feeling of wonder?

Don't let me fool you. I really don't have a narrative or story for you now, just like I never really found the secret. I just have pieces in my head of the home and time:
Oil paintings, watercolors, cartoon drawings, drafting table, light table, animation board, Jose Pablo, a small nude sculpture, some fencing swords, the smell of coffee, a block puzzle, wood sculpture of el diablo, bust of michelangelo, marionettes, some strange musical instrument on the wall, a cane with an ivory fist (broken in half by grandpa in a dramatic on-stage performance!) an endless collection of coffee mugs crowning the kitchen wall like the tail of a dragon, beignets, snowcones, french quarter, feeding the pigoens, jazz, Mardi Gras beads: brilliant green, purple and gold colors thrown together like careless lovers, the Mardi Gras colors of abandon. All of these things. Is it just nostalgia? Why did they all seem ebued with magic flavor, like parts in a stew that grandma might make.

So now I cried 3 times: For Bernie, for the house and for Sim.
All the things are floating apart now. Bernie, the house and Sim's deaths were like big bangs shooting out their particles into space.

Soon we'll all get together to pick up the pieces. Not out of greed, but out of vacant-eyed longing for that lost eden. We all miss the magic. We'll shakes the pieces saying "Talk to me! Tell me how the magic works or take me back there." It will stare back, mouth open like a jigsaw piece.

Sim would humm in the kitchen and of course it was the hub of the house. I can hear it in my head "do do-do do-da da-da, oh hey kiddo" she'd say as you wondered in because of the nice sound and smells.

It was so hot there in the summer, everthing just seems to cook. And the place was built on marshy land. I swear I could see the old brick house sinking into the ground like it was stuck in quicksand. How long could it really last anyway?

It's late and I'm sad and tired.

Goodbye Sim.
Thank you for everything, especially the mystery and the wonder.


Mom has put out the obituary statment for tomorrow's herald:
Sim Wiest
Durham – Myrtle May Gustine Simoneaux Wiest, age 91 and called “Sim” by all who knew and loved her, died peacefully on the morning of January 12, 2009, in Durham NC. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Bernard.

Sim was born June 10, 1917, in New Orleans, Louisiana. She enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II and served as the official photographer for Ft. Custer in Battle Creek, Michigan. Bernard Wiest, an artist, was also stationed at Ft. Custer where the two met and married prior to the end of the war.

During her lifetime, Sim worked in commercial art with her husband and in interior design. Her passion, however, was food. She worked in catering for many years and became an accomplished baker, specializing in her famous “designer brownies.” The kitchen was always Sim’s favorite place to be, and she welcomed everyone to her table.

Sim is survived by her loving children, Mike and Bonnie Simoneaux, Penny Augustine and Bob Quackenbush, and Cannon and Jane Wiest. Her surviving grandchildren are Steve and Irene Simoneaux, Susan and James Snyder, Jeff Mahorney, James Mahorney, Jean and Cris DiFilippo, Brandy and Lloyd Yarborough, Cannon Wiest, and Matthew Wiest. She is also survived by 12 great-grandchildren. Sim will always be remembered as a wonderful mother and grandmother.

A funeral service will be held Thursday, January 15, 2009, at 11:00 am at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 210 St. Marys Rd., Hillsborough, NC, followed by burial of the ashes of both Sim and Bernard in the church garden.

The family would like to thank Durham Regional Hospital, Duke Homecare and Hospice, and Rose Manor Healthcare for their kindness and care during the past two months, and the Cremation Society of the Carolinas. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Duke Homecare and Hospice, 4321 Medical Park Dr., Durham, NC 27704.

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Mark Adams said...


I'm so sorry for your loss. Sim sounds like a wonderful woman who lived a full happy life. I envy you that she was in your life so long and died, as we all hope to, peacefully in her sleep. If the weight is too much to bear, you can always come over to my house, which you have described to a T right down to the mardi gras beads. Our new house even has a secret room that you access by pulling on a book in the bookcase.

Dar Presto said...

Jeff, my deepest sympathy for your loss. Thank you for sharing the magical imagery of your time with Sim and Bernie.

mike rooney studios said...

i'm sad for you my friend. nothing will take away the grief. take heart tho....in time those wonderful, magical memories you have will overtake it. my prayers are with you and your family.

Frank Gardner said...

Jeff, I am so sorry for your loss of Sim.
I really know what you must be feeling, as I am feeling the same.
You are right about pieces. I try to put pieces together into whole thoughts, but there are just pieces.
Hang in there.
You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

I Want To Be An Artist said...

What a wonderful narration. I cried as if I knew her.

Jeff Mahorney said...

Hey guys. Thanks for all the nice comments and support. I really appreciate it. I just finished first night of all family being town. What a whirlwind. We all told stories of Sim and Bernie. It was so nice.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Jeff, what a poignant post about Sim. I'm looking forward to some paintings of the little items you'll come by as you clean out the house.
These losses are inevitable. My sympathy to you and yours.

Jala Pfaff said...

I give you my sympathy. Lovely piece to read. My grandmother is always in my heart and mind, too.

Anonymous said...

hey jeff hows it goin? thanks for makin this page.

simmie i miss you so much and hope you and popoo are together n forever happy. i love you and popoo with all my heart

matthew wiest

Marshall said...

I'm so sorry to learn of your Grandmother Sim's passing. I last spoke to her about 10 years earlier, upon (your Grandfather) Bernie's passing. Bernie was the single most influential and caring person, and simply the best friend, I have had in my life. A genuine 'Renaissance Man.' And Sim - artist, photographer, gift designer, Mother. Knowing both Sim and Bernie for over 35 years was both one of the greatest friendships and pivotal experiences in my entire life. I was extremely fortunate to have been mentored by Bernie starting in the early 1970's (along with Clem, Ronnie and Jack), and our friendships continued through the rest of his life. I fondly remember spending many, many days and Saturdays with The Wiests and under Bernie's tutelage. Their guidance and generosity positively affected my entire artistic (and non-artistic) life, and I was truly a better person for having known them both.
How I do miss them.

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