Martin Sebastian Simon, aged 99, six weeks shy of his 100th birthday, passed away on April 5 under the care of hospice at Judson Park, Cleveland. He is survived by his daughters, Cecily Bianca Simon Savick and Celeste Dessertenne, his five grandchildren, Bryan (Jody) Becker, Antoine Dessertenne, Alan Becker, Dania (Vivek) Sharma and Julien Dessertenne, and his three great-grandchildren, Andrew, Jessica and Emily Becker, as well as his stepdaughter, Rebecca Levin, stepson, Kenneth (Phyllis) Levin and his son James, children of his late second wife, Pearl Kieval Levin.
Born in Charlottenburg, Germany, he was above all a musician's musician, having studied the cello in Berlin with Adolf Steiner, Venice with Luigi Silva and Paris with Pierre Fournier before the outbreak of WWII. In 1940 he fled Europe for America, then returned with Patton’s Third Army. He was trained at Fort Ritchie, Maryland, as an Army Intelligence officer in part because he spoke five languages. After serving at the Battle of the Bulge, his training was put to use interrogating prisoners to determine how to build the Army’s first bridge across the Rhine at Boppard.
After the war, he returned to his beloved first wife, Adelaide, and infant daughter, Cecily, and played successively with the symphony orchestras of New Orleans, Kansas City, Houston and Pittsburgh. Subsequently, he auditioned for George Szell and was hired in 1947 as part of the effort to rebuild the Cleveland Orchestra. He retained that seat for 48 years. Funded through the GI Bill, he studied under Ernst Silberstein at the Cleveland Institute of Music and earned his bachelor’s degree in applied music (cello) and a master’s degree in musicology. A consummate section musician, he took pride in acting as a mentor to younger Orchestra members. He also participated in a considerable number of chamber music events, including 10 years as leader of a string quartet that performed for children in public schools through the Music Performance Trust Fund. After his retirement, he played for 11 years in the Heights Chamber Orchestra under the baton of his friend, Gino Raffaelli. As a soloist, he notably performed the Saint-Saëns Concerto with the Cleveland Women's Orchestra. His final public performance was at the age of 92 with students of the Cleveland Institute of Music, and he continued to play until he was 97 years old. His cherished cello, a Francesco Ruggeri Dett ‘Il Per, was made in 1679 in Cremona, Italy.
A dedicated activist for world peace and social justice, he was a member of the Democratic Party, the American Federation of Musicians (Locals 4 and 802), Cleveland Institute of Music, Cleveland Museum of Art, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, Women Speak Out for Peace and Justice, and local nuclear disarmament groups.
He will be remembered by all for his astonishing intellectual abilities; deep and expansive knowledge of European culture; rapier wit and his undying loyalty to his friends, family and humanitarian values.
He wished that contributions in his memory be given to Planned Parenthood and the SPLC.
Services may be planned for a later date. Those arrangements will be posted on this website.