Shortly after Barbara A. Simon was appointed a State Supreme Court reporter in the early 1970s, she volunteered for the toughest assignment on the docket -- a bitterly contested and often hostile hearing in a criminal case arising from the deadly 1971 Attica prison riot.
For three months, she and a colleague worked from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, recording testimony and -- without the use of computers -- putting together copies of the full day's testimony for the judge and eight lawyers. Without fail, the transcripts were finished before court resumed the next morning.
"As the new kid on the block, I was assigned the case," said Linda Hahn, Mrs. Simon's colleague and longtime best friend. "I was scared out of my wits, but my buddy [Mrs. Simon] said: 'I'll do that with you.' Barbara took control. She was confidence personified and an absolute professional. I couldn't imagine doing that with anyone but her."
Mrs. Simon, who displayed those same qualities in everything she tackled, died Wednesday in her Amherst home, 10 years after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 66.
The former Barbara Lawrence flashed the same determination in all her projects, including serving as national secretary of Junior Achievement while a student at Kensington High School; playing highly competitive tennis, on several teams that captured local titles and went on to state and national tournaments; and fighting efforts to replace court reporters with tape recorders as a statewide union negotiator.
Outside the courtroom, Mrs. Simon was meticulous about her appearance, always dressing stylishly and appearing more youthful than her years. She remained upbeat in the face of her illness, refusing to share her pain with others and keeping a twinkle in her eye up to her final days.
There also was a private, prideful side to her. Mrs. Simon kept the severity of her illness a secret from almost everyone; even many good friends and relatives were shocked at her passing.
A Buffalo native, Mrs. Simon graduated from Kensington in 1963 and learned her court-reporting skills at Bryant & Stratton Business Institute, eventually recording more than 200 words per minute. She started her career in the mid-1960s and later worked with the Erie County grand jury and in Erie County Court, before being promoted to State Supreme Court. She retired in 2002, working until recently in town and village courts on a part-time basis.
She also taught court reporting at night school for many years. Dozens of her students went on to successful courtroom careers, including several who joined her as Supreme Court reporters.
Mrs. Simon was an officer of the New York State Shorthand Reporters Association, secretary of the local Susan B. Komen affiliate, a member of Temple Beth Am and a volunteer for the Shining Stars Adaptive Tennis Program, giving tennis lessons to children with disabilities.
Survivors include Peter Simon, her husband of 34 years and a retired Buffalo News reporter; two daughters, Becky Simon and Jessica Murphy; and a brother, Richard A. Lawrence.
A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Temple Beth Am, 4660 Sheridan Drive, Amherst.