On the anniversary of his birth, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Air Forces Veteran Neil Simon, who served from 1944 to 1946 and became a Broadway legend.
Neil Simon was born July 4, 1927 in the Bronx, New York City. He grew up in a poor, working-class, Jewish home during the Great Depression. Simon found refuge from his home life in movies and developed a passion for comedies.
After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx at the age of 16, Simon enlisted in the Army Air Forces Reserve in 1944. He began his training at New York University. Simon began writing when he worked as a sports editor for the Army camp newspaper, Rev-Meter. He was assigned to what was then Lowry Field, Colorado, in 1945, and attended the University of Denver from 1945 until 1946. After two years of service in the Army Air Forces Reserve, he was released from his duty as a corporal. Simon reunited with his brother at Warner Brothers while working in the mailroom together. He later married his first wife, Joan Baim, in 1953.
Simon’s notable works included the play and film “The Odd Couple” (1965/1968), the film “Murder by Death” (1976) and the movie “The Goodbye Girl” (1977). Additionally, he helped produce a semi-autobiographical trilogy play series which included “Brighton Beach Memoirs” (1982), “Biloxi Blues” (1984) and “Broadway Bound” (1986). In 1983, the Nederlander Organization renamed their New York City property the Neil Simon Theatre in recognition for his contributions as a playwriter and screenwriter. He was the first living playwright to have a Broadway venue named in his honor.
At the time of his retirement, Simon had won four Tony Awards. In addition, Simon won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1991, was nominated for four Academy Awards and received honorary degrees from Williams College and Hofstra University. He married his fourth wife, actress Elaine Joyce, in 1999.
In 2006, he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. His work was active in Broadway until 2010 with the revival of his play “Promises, Promises.”
Simon passed away in August 2018 in New York City at the age of 91.
We honor his service.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
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Writer: Alec Zimmerman
Editor: Amanda Baker, Katherine Berman
Fact checker: Kay Snyder
Graphic artist: Courtney Carr