Local and state leaders responded as news came of the passing of Maryland Watermen’s Association President Larry Simns, he founded the organization in the 1970s and had served as its only president. Simns died at his home in Rock Hall yesterday surrounded by his family, he was 75.
Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian was in the seafood business for many years with Simns and had worked with him on watermen issues.
“Before I was a Kent County Commissioner and Town Manager of Rock Hall, I was in the seafood business for the majority of my adult life, and Larry and I tied our boats along side each other for more than 20 years,” said Fithian, who was then President of the Kent Watermen’s Association. “We spent a lot of time dealing with the problems facing the health of the Bay and Larry spent the best part of 40 years representing the seafood business. It was obviously an uphill battle. His mission was to attempt to teach [lawmakers] on the other side of the Bay how the seafood business should be run. If you look at things today, you can see it’s a shame they didn’t spend a little more time listening to him.”
Fithian said he testified often with Simns before the Maryland General Assembly, opposing legislation they believed would hurt the watermen.
Del. Jay Jacobs, R-Kent, said Simns was on the job until his final moments.
“I know that he had been ill for quite some time, but stayed active,” said Jacobs, who is also the former Mayor of Rock Hall. “Even in his final days he was working hard on waterman issues and with the fisheries. His devotion to the waterman and the heritage of the industry was evident right up until the very end.”
“Larry was Rock Hall born and raised in the waterman industry,” Jacobs said. “He was a true Eastern Shore Waterman, and I was proud to know him.”
Del. Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil, said Simns was an advocate for watermen before the Maryland General Assembly.
“The passing of Larry Sims is a great loss to the entire state,” Smigiel said. “He dedicated his life to helping watermen maintain the traditions and heritage of the Eastern Shore. He helped steer the watermen through the troubled waters of Annapolis for many years, and we will miss him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him, his family and all of his friends.”
“He was a true statesman and a tireless advocate for the watermen,” said Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin. “He will be missed.”
In January Gov. Martin O’Malley honored Simns with the title of Admiral of the Chesapeake. On news of his passing, O’Malley released a statement.
“For more than four decades, Larry Simns served as the voice of the men and women who tirelessly work our magnificent waterways, bringing Maryland’s storied seafood to market and table.
“It is difficult to picture the Maryland Watermen’s Association without Larry at the helm or to imagine our watermen’s community or seafood industry without his leadership. It is impossible to put into words the deep personal loss being felt by so many across our State, including our staff at the Department of Natural Resources, where Larry was a revered partner for so many years.
“Today our prayers are with Larry’s family and all of those who called him a friend. May he fall gently into the arms of He who once gathered fishermen in Galilee. Larry will be loved among them.”
Simns’ life on the Chesapeake Bay was chronicled in The Best of Times on the Chesapeake Bay: An Account of a Rock Hall Waterman, written by Robert Rich.