I wrote this tribute to Sam when I found out he had cancer. Sam passed away today at age 59. I’m sharing this story again to remind people of Sam’s life. I hope he inspires you to do good in the world.
Who is Sam Simon and why should you care? Sam Simon may have made you laugh more than most people you know. He made me laugh for years. I stopped laughing a few weeks ago when I learned Sam has cancer.
Sam wrote for Taxi and Cheers, co-created The Simpsons with Matt Groening, and won multiple Emmys for his groundbreaking work but the animal protection community admires him for much more than those achievements.
Sam has been a generous friend to me. He helped me knock out Michael Vick’s television show sponsors with Howard Stern, drew photos of Bart Simpson for me to auction off to benefit local animal rescues, and invited me to his house on many occasions when I visited California. On one of my recent visits, he drove me to see the work his foundation performs in Malibu training service dogs he rescues from euthanasia to care for the blind and deaf and he took me to LA to show me the inspiring and innovative work his Feeding Families program offers serving plant-based food to homeless and low-income families. The Sam Simon Foundation also provides free spay and neutering services for low-income pet owners, free operations for sick dogs, and trains dogs to support war veterans returning from combat.
Sam spends millions of dollars of his own money to save animals. A vegan for more than 25 years, Sam’s philanthropy didn’t begin when he was diagnosed with cancer. He chose to dedicate his life and money to promote causes greater than his own self-interest many years ago speaking out against the circus, fur, and many other forms of cruelty to animals. His actions and fearlessness in the face of unrelenting opposition speak volumes about his character.
I invited Sam to speak at the Animal Rights National Conference a few years ago. While we were there, we spoke to some of Sea Shephard’s heroic crew members. Sam told them he wanted to support their cause and shortly thereafter donated money to purchase a new ship for them. Captain Paul Watson named it The Sam Simon. Sam was preparing to join the Sea Shephard crew for his dream adventure when he learned he would be engaged in a different adventure battling aggressive cancer that has spread throughout his body. Sam has managed to maintain his unrivaled sense of humor but the medication and chemo he’s receiving are no laughing matter. Sam wouldn’t want us to be sad though. He would rather we continue to laugh and live life and stand up for the most defenseless among us. In other words, Sam would want us to do the same thing he has been doing for decades.
In response to a public outpouring of concern over the announcement of Sam’s condition, he wrote, “I’m overwhelmed by your kind thoughts. I want you all to know I have a great team of docs, traditional and alternative, and I plan on beating the cancer. If you’d really like to thank me, please vow to never buy a ticket to SeaWorld or Ringling Bros again! xo” – Sam Simon, March 15, 2013
Let’s all take that pledge for Sam and much more.