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Paul F Simmons
(March 29, 1939 - January 10, 2015)
By Nassar Beydoun, MD​


​It was the fall of 1978.  School was back in session and I, being the eager student that I was, would arrive early before school started and waited for the bell to ring.  The Dearborn Maples Junior High Chess Team would hold practice early in the morning in Mr. Simmons’ class room.  He taught French and English at Maples, and was also the Chess Coach.  Peeking through the window, watching the Chess Team playing games raised my curiosity.  One day, I got enough courage to ask Mr. Simmons if I could join the Chess Team.  He took me in with open arms, taught me the moves, and gave me books to read.  Within a couple months, I was playing first board for his Team.

Mr. Simmons did so much for his students, words cannot do him justice.  Not only did he mentor us and drive us to compete against other schools in league play, but he also took us to countless local and state tournaments, on his own time and expense, to develop us as players.  He would raise money for a few of us to attend Chess Camp, where William Lombardy lectured.  He would take us to Fred Lindsay’s Chess Supplies for books.  Through his guidance and encouragement, we evolved as students, chess players, and individuals.  He would take us out to eat whether we won or lost.  I still remember the days of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Mexican Fiesta.  Coming from Dearborn, a blue collar working class community, those days are special to us.

The Maples Junior High Chess Team, class of 1979, moved on to Fordson High School, which did not have a chess team at that time.  Mr. Simmons, again on his own time, organized the high school team. He held practice at Fordson High and Maples Jr. High on alternating days and even started chess at Maples Elementary School around the same time.  In 1981, during my junior year, we competed at the High School State Championship for the first time, and finished second in the State!

After high school, chess took a back seat to college, medical school, residency, fellowship, career and family.  I kept in touch with Mr. Simmons as he wrapped up his teaching days and retired.  I saw him not only as a Chess Coach, but also as a father figure and friend.  We would go to the annual Father’s Day weekend Lobsterfest at Ashley’s in Ann Arbor and reminisce about the past.  As the years passed and Mr. Simmons’ health began to fail, he would talk about the special days at Maples and Fordson as if they were yesterday…stating details that I have long forgotten, but he remembered vividly. 

Mr. Simmons passed away on January 10, 2015 at the age of 75.  He is survived by his son, Michael, his sister, Norma, and by hundreds of chess players and thousands of students in Dearborn.  He will be missed.

Goodbye my Coach, Friend, Mentor, and Inspiration.  You treated us like we were your own children, and for that, we will be forever grateful.

From Michigan Chess Nov/Dec 2006

Paul Simmons.jpgA new name has been added to the Michigan Chess Hall of Fame. Paul Simmons was inducted during the General Membership Meeting at the 2006 Michigan Open. Coffee and cupcakes were offered during the meeting in celebration.

Paul was the first Michigan Chess Association Scholastic Director from 1980 to 1988 and established the foundation for much of today’s scholastic success. He organized the first Michigan Elementary Team Championship on February 5, 1983. The tournament was held at Plymouth-Salem High School with one section and 18 teams competing. Prior to this, the top elementary team from the Junior High Team Championship was declared the Elementary Team Champion. The Elementary team Championship is now the largest chess event held annually in the state with four sections and more than 130 teams competing.

Paul was a chess coach in the Dearborn school system leading teams to Michigan State Championships at every level.​