By Richard J. Gerber
Carol F. Simkin (1949-2011) was one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known. It was not just her intellectual brilliance, her inner and outer beauty, her gentle yet effervescent personality or her sparkling sense of humor; it was not even the youthful personal relationship we shared that impressed me so much. Carol was admired and loved by everyone who was lucky to have known her, and these few words can only convey a flavor of the wonderful young woman I knew.
During our junior and senior years of high school, when we were 17 and 18 years old, Carol and I had affectionate nicknames for each other. We read Shakespeare’s plays together; she called me Hamlet and I called her Ophelia.
At school, Carol was a very serious student, one of the best in our class; she was a lot smarter than me. But, she could also be playful and mischievous. We worked closely together as co-typing editors of the Great Neck North Arista ’67 school yearbook. Below the photo of the two of us in the yearbook that shows me holding papers and Carol at the typewriter, she wrote: “You can see who did all the work around here!” She was right, but I did the proofreading.
After school, Carol and I enjoyed many adventures together. I particularly recall the time we appeared live on the Clay Cole television music and dance show in New York. I have a black-and-white photo of us (taken from the TV) in which we are seated at a table on the set behind Clay Cole. I remember the two of us dancing like crazy on that occasion, as the hot studio lights made us sweat.
I treasure many personal memories of Carol and her family. I remember sitting in the kitchen of their home and marveling at the rather large sailboat that Carol’s father—Dr. Maxwell Simkin, a dentist—was building by hand in the family’s backyard. Carol’s mother, who I adored, told me that her husband could build anything. After the boat was completed, I went sailing on Manhasset Bay with the Simkin family.
My diary is filled with detailed accounts of some of my time with Carol in the summers of 1966 and 1967. One entry describes us sitting on the shore of the bay after a sail, right at dusk. We remarked on how the clouds, against a deepening blue sky, turned from shades of pink through lavender to magenta in the fading light. I mentioned the sound of the gentle waves lapping at the side of the boat and Carol shocked me by saying that with all the time she had spent on the water, she had never really listened to the waves.
Toward the end of our senior year in high school, Carol and I were asked to serve as the committee selecting the band that would play at the GNN Class of ’67 Senior Prom. On the weekends throughout that spring, we drove around Long Island, listening to bands performing at small clubs. I was a huge fan of Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods and, after we heard them, I lobbied Carol to choose them for the prom. But Carol insisted that we hear one more band, Al Kooper and The Blues Project. After hearing them, Carol quickly convinced me that The Blues Project was the better dance band. As usual, she was right and they were perfect for the prom.
Carol seems to have made the most of her talents after we graduated from high school. After Brandeis and NYU law school, she was, for many years, a leading trademark and copyright attorney, working and living in Manhattan with her husband, Ron Lehrman; she also had a child, Lauren Simkin Berke.
Among many professional achievements, Carol was an expert in the area of character trademark rights, working on the Superman, Tarzan and Muppets franchises. She also represented David Letterman, among other celebrities. Carol and Ron were avid antiques collectors, and Carol loved her gardens at their second home on Cape Cod. After a battle with cancer, she died on July 9, 2011.
The last time I spoke with Carol, it was by phone in the late 1990s. I sought her advice on copyrighting an emergency room logo when I worked as a hospital administrator. As always, Carol was a great resource, professional and helpful with the project.
When we graduated from high school, Carol wrote a personal note to me by her photo in our yearbook; I don’t share it with anyone, so it remains our secret. But she signed it “Ophelia.”
Formal invitations to the GNN Class of ’67 Fiftieth Reunion, which is being held at the Inn at Great Neck from June 9 to 11, have been sent to all class members via email. For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org.