(From Patriot and Free Press, June 20-26, 2012)


By Nora L. Wilson-Wheeler

simons0002CUBA—Today’s honoree of this column is done posthumously.  Sadly, Eldyn passed away on February 4th of this year at the age of 94.


He was born in the hills of Allegany County in Angelica, NY, in August of 1917.  Eldyn was the middle child of Benjamin and Stella (Sortore) Simons.  He had an older brother, Ray, and a younger sister, Lillian.  His father was a tenant farmer, his mother a domestic housekeeper for people.  The family moved to Allentown, New York, where he spent most of his growing up years.

Eldyn liked to read the encyclopedia like others would read story books.  He read about everything.  This may be why he completed school in only ten years.  He graduated from the Allentown Union School in 1934.

He liked adventure and exploration.  He built things, things he felt people needed-he invented things.  He was a good problem solver, a regular Mr. Fixit.  He’d do his own plumbing and electrical work.  On occasion he “blew things up.”

After completing high school, he worked in all areas of the oil fields for five years.  He got his calling to the ministry and borrowed $100 from Albert Howe, his grandfather’s boss, to attend Houghton College.

Eldyn lived at a rooming house owned by Mrs. Beach.  It was her daughter, Elizabeth, who caught his eye.  Their first date was at a basketball game.  He was twenty-seven and she was just sixteen.  They dated for three years before they became engaged.  They married on August 31, 1943 in Houghton.

He graduated from Houghton College with his Bachelor’s Degree, and later from Buffalo State with his Master’s in Art Education.

As an ordained minister, he served as the pastor for churches in Black Creek, Oakland, Ashford, Birdsall, and Canaseraga where he helped build the Valley Wesleyan Church.

Mr. Simons also had a passion for art.  He did artwork for the Allentown Union School newspaper when he was a student there.  He took art under the Artlips while attending Houghton College, and later he taught art at Nunda Central School.  He retired from there in 1977.

He made sculptures, did wood carvings and made jewelry.  Although he pursued several creative activities, most of his work was done on a canvas.  He worked with oils, pastels, water colors, and pen and ink to create his masterpieces.  When finished, many of his pieces were given as gifts.

He and Elizabeth loved to travel by car, many times with their five children: Judy (who now lives in Texas), Sharon (Kentucky), Faith (New York), Phillip and Ellyn (New York).  They traveled to forty-six states, and made several trips to Newfoundland.  They also made three trips to Peru, but, those trips were the most difficult trip any parent would ever have to endure.

The Simons’ only son, Phillip, was an exchange student in Peru.  On August 9, 1970, as he and 101 others (48 who were also exchange students) flew out to head back to the states, their Lansa flight 502 crashed on the mountain side just above the village of San Jeronimo.  The only survivor was the co-pilot.

It is of no surprise that many of Eldyn’s paintings are of Peruvian life and its landscapes.

Pastor Simons was also an author.  He wrote a book titled “The Dawn of Hope” which offers encouragement for those who grieve.  He shares the story of losing his son and how he and his wife lived on afterwards.  The book also includes stories pertaining to family members and people he knew who were grieved by the loss of a spouse, a friend, a child, disease, miscarriage, etc.

The Simons moved to Jackson Hill Road in Cuba in 1997.  In February of 2009 they were both moved into the Absolut at Houghton.

Eldyn continued to paint and draw even while confined to his bed and unable to lift his arms.  One of his paintings, “Times Relic II”, was published in the 2011 Art From the Heart Calendar produced by the New York State Health Facilities Association.  The painting has a lonely old tree that reminded him of how lonely many of the people feel as they sit with no visitors each day.

Some of Pastor Simons’ paintings are currently being displayed at Cuba’s Circulating Library’s Community Room.  The room is open during regular library hours.


According to his daughter, Faith, her dad was still growing in his last years – to him his life wasn’t over.  He had an I-pad and used it quite regularly.  He embraced life to the end, always wanting to be a better person.  He considered himself to be a rich man, even though he was troubled by his own failing health.  He was always a “glass half-full” kind of person.