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Mamie C. Simonson, portrait photographer who campaigned to change name of Moses Parkway, dies at 87

Dec. 30, 1928 – Oct. 5, 2016

LEWISTON – Mamie C. Simonson, a professional portrait photographer who successfully campaigned to change the name of the Robert Moses Parkway, died Wednesday in her Lewiston home. She was 87.

In June, Mrs. Simonson saw the culmination of months of letter-writing to local and state officials when Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to Niagara Falls to announce that the Robert Moses Parkway would become the Niagara Scenic Parkway.

Cuomo introduced her during the unveiling of the new parkway sign and proclaimed her “a champion of change” for her persistence. Rep. Brian Higgins also worked with her to convince the New York Power Authority to contribute $2 million toward redesign of the parkway.

Born in Niagara Falls, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants who lived over their grocery store, the former Mamie Maroon was the sixth of seven children. She first aspired to become a photographer while she was a student at North Junior High School.

While attending Niagara Falls High School, she worked as an apprentice at a local portrait studio. After graduating in 1946, she was awarded a Zonta Club scholarship to study photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

She met her husband, Marvin “Si” Simonson, at RIT. They both graduated in 1948 and were married in 1949.

They opened their first portrait studio at 547 Main St. in Niagara Falls, then moved it to their home on Whirlpool Street in 1955. After they were evicted from that property for the construction of the Robert Moses Parkway in 1959, the Simonsons relocated to Lewiston.

She and her husband worked side by side for 58 years, photographing more than 1,000 weddings. Known for her expressiveness and wide smile, she enjoyed entertaining children in the studio with her large collection of toys.

The Simonsons received the Civic Pride Award from the Lewiston Chamber of Commerce in 2004 and retired in 2007.

Active in community affairs, she recruited and organized volunteers to collect donations for local soup kitchens at Tuesday night concerts at Artpark, raising more than $100,000.

She was a member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, a charter member of the Lewiston Beautification Commission and a volunteer for several organizations, including the Friends of the Lewiston Library.

Her husband died in 2010.

Survivors include a son, Lee; two daughters, Sarah Stokes and Mary Jennings; a sister, Norma Alberti; six grandchildren and a great-grandson.

Services will be private.

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