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
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.
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
From Michigan Chess Nov/Dec 2006
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.