William John Simon, known to everyone in Skagway as “Wild Bill,” the house musician at the old Moe’s Frontier Bar, died following an operation at Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital on June 20.
Bill was born in Wichita, Kansas on Jan. 7, 1952 to parents Melvin and Mary Simon. He had two sisters, Carolyn and Margery, and a younger brother, Robert. Robert was Bill’s “best bud” growing up, and those two always had fun.
Bill was a mechanic and musician his whole life. He loved guitars and played in many bands in Wichita.
His father owned a trucking company, so Bill earned extra bucks during harvest driving the crops in the semi-trucks when he was just 14 years old. He learned all about big rigs and how to service them for his dad’s business. He also worked at a gas station all through high school on weekends.
He graduated from the all-boys Bishop Carroll High School in 1970 and bought a 1966 Corvette Stingray for his graduation. That car was the love of his life for six years until it was stolen. (He vowed to never get emotionally attached to a car again). After his father passed, Bill and his brother opened a car repair shop called Simon and Simon Car Investigation. Those old enough will get the pun.
Bill was married twice. His first wife, Janie, wrote that they went steady when they were 14 and then married at age 22. “Bill was a good man,” she wrote. “He had many talents; drinking was one he excelled at and caused us to divorce when we were 30. There was never any animosity between us. We both realized it was time to move on with our lives.”
She said she lost contact with Bill and later learned that he had met a new love and moved to Alaska to live happily ever after, and she was glad they did.
They caught up to each other 34 years later when Bill called to offer sympathy for the death of Janie’s father in 2016. Bill had told her about his wonderful wife Cindy of 25 years, and how proud he was of her and their life in Skagway. Cindy had passed in 2015.
Bill told about their many friends in Skagway and how he had played at Moe’s and still loved to entertain as “Wild Bill.” That made the Kansas crowd laugh, as they were used to calling him Simon. “He must have gotten wild in Alaska; here he was rather quiet, almost shy … May Bill’s soul and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, may they rest in peace. Amen.”
Among Bill’s many Skagway friends were his neighbors, the Clem family. Greg Clem wrote, “Wild Bill was a man who lived life at his own pace. Never one to rush things but always ready with a big welcome and his welcoming little chuckle, he was one of the most stubborn men I have ever known but a man with a big heart willing to help where he could. He lived life his way to the very end. I will sorely miss him.”
Bill was preceded in death by his wife Cindy, sister Margery and brother Robert. He is survived by his sister Carolyn in Idaho, stepdaughter Traci Smith-Cone, three nieces and three grandnephews.
A celebration of life for “Wild Bill” Simon will be announced at a later date.
-Compiled by friends and family