Almost a month and a half ago, we lost one of our great contributors and supporters to complications stemming from treatments for breast cancer.
Simon Chaitowitz was a dear friend to both Johanna and me and someone who continually kept the wind under the sails for many. Rather than writing about her on this site immediately after her passing, Johanna and I both felt the need to sit with this one for a bit and just absorb what the loss of Simon meant to both of us.
Simon was an enabler in the very best sense of the word. Though a brilliant thinker and writer herself, she was forever excited about what others were doing to make the world a better place – especially for animals, women, and the environment. She provided encouragement for any and all projects of her friends and colleagues. She was completely nonjudgmental and saw only the best in everyone. Simon was a great cheerleader for Dare To Be Fabulous as well. It meant a lot to us that such an incredible person and writing talent would take the time for us, especially at such a challenging point in her life.
Johanna and I have both known Simon for years. I first met her when I was organizing a fundraising event for a sanctuary in Cameroon that took in orphaned chimpanzees – victims of that country’s brutal bush meat trade which butchered their mothers for food right in front of their infants. Desperate for volunteer help, I put out an APB and Simon answered – enthusiastic, capable, and inspired no job too small for her, including finding a babysitter for the sanctuary founder’s baby daughter. She again came through for me when I was later organizing and animal advocacy conference in Washington, D.C., a short time later. Simon and I have been both friends and colleagues since that time.
I know Johanna has similar feelings, if I may speak for her. Simon was a great champion of Johanna’s advocacy work in getting vegetarian options into professional sports arenas across the country, SoyHappy.org. And in spite of her own precarious health, she was a wealth of knowledge, encouragement, and support for both of us with our own health issues a – a side of Simon I saw manifest with many other women who were also diagnosed with cancer.
Our greatest gift from Simon was her example of living fully each day, as well as she could, no matter what. Until she could absolutely no longer manage it, she kept up her wonderful blog with stories about her treatment, her hiking and kayaking, her getaways, and beautiful photos that she took herself of the nature around her that she loved so much. She continued to publish op-eds and letters to the editor, and had a column featured in the Huffington Post a month before her death.
Simon lived more fully than many of us ever will. Her time was too short and her value to all of us great. People often say the loss of someone is untimely, but in Simon’s case it is especially true.
Simon is the second member of the DTBF family we have lost since our inception. The other is the incomparable Gretchen Wyler whom we also lost to complications from breast cancer. Both of these amazing women believed in the power of encouraging other women to be who they are and do what they were put on the planet to do, without letting the opinions of others get in their way. They were both clear in their focus, clear in their dreams, and clear in their world view. They were both immeasurably fabulous.
We miss you, Simon. Say hello to Gretchen for us.
Click here to read Simon’s obituary in the Washington Post.