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David A. Simmons

September 11, 2023

David A SimmonsDavid A. Simmons, 60, of Watertown, passed away Monday morning, September 11, 2023, at Samaritan Medical Center with his husband Scott by his side. 

To know David was to love him. Everyone who ever met David thought they were his best friend. Whether you saw him every week or every other year, it was like you saw him yesterday. Vibrant and kind, he had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the world. 

David Simmons was born on September 25, 1962 in Watertown, son of Kenneth F. Simmons, Jr. and Joyce Leo Simmons. He was a 1980 graduate of Immaculate Heart Central School and attended Jefferson Community College. September 15, 2012 was his happiest and proudest day when, surrounded by family and friends, David married the love of his life, Scott A. Rennie, with Michelle Circe officiating. 

David worked for the NYS Department of Transportation, retiring in 2017 after 33 years of service. He was an integral part of the Watertown arts community and a favorite to Watertown audiences. He has a long history of involvement with community theater organizations and is a TANYS (Theatre Association of New York State) award winner. 

One of David’s most notable contributions to the Arts in the North Country began at Watertown High School in the fall of 1988 with a production of “Guys and Dolls” and 50 shows later, alongside his friend and collaborator, Russ Faunce, he concluded with the spring production of “Shrek” in March of 2014. Notable highlights showcasing David’s choreography skills included: “42nd Street” (90 & 99), “My One & Only” (95), “Joseph/Dreamcoat” (97), “Crazy for You” (99), “Fame” (01), “Footloose” (04 & 10), “A Chorus Line” (05), “Cats” (06), and “White Christmas” (09). 

In May of 1989 David eagerly boarded a Freeman Bus headed for Busch Gardens in Virginia. That would be followed by seven trips to Disney World, one trip to Disney Land, a half dozen trips to New York City and multiple excursions to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania. David willingly embarked on the most challenging of roller coasters available at each park with Watertown High School Select Choir members by his side. 

David spent the better part of two decades being a part of the crowning of the new Miss New York State in Watertown. While his primary purpose for the pageant was choreography, David was the heart and soul of what happened on the Dulles State Office Building stage, particularly backstage. He was the first point of contact in the wings to console those contestants who had hoped for better results and the man who carried the giant bouquet of roses to the winner in celebration of her success. Any pageant contestant who encountered David Simmons can tell you he was always a source of support and encouragement both on and off the stage. 

After his retirement from the DOT, David joined his dear friends Kyle and Ticia Aumell as codirectors and choreographer of Stage Notes, returning to his roots of mentoring high school students through theater. He was dedicated to every Stage Notes student and to the organization’s motto of “Performance With A Purpose”. He was especially dedicated to hitting the high school musical circuit to see all his Stage Notes students in their school musicals.

David raised Stage Notes to a triple arts program, offering training that combined the disciplines of acting, singing, and dancing. David’s expertise with choreography was evident in “A Chorus Line”, “Pippin”, “The Theory of Relativity”, “Rent”, and ending his choreography career the way it began with “Guys And Dolls”. He believed that the crowning achievement of his career was “Chicago” in July of 2019. 

During the pandemic, David held “Dancing with David” sessions in Kyle and Ticia’s driveway to help keep everyone’s spirits up during a difficult time. David imparted great wisdom to all of his students. Some memorable quotes that Stage Notes students will never forget are “You are always auditioning”, “There is no such thing as I can’t, only I won’t”, “Break A Nail”, “I will be crying in the back with Kyle”, “Gurllll – girl with a U”, and of course…”LMNO!”. 

Thousands of students still remember choreography from their high school years because of David Simmons. Say it together…hop, shuffle, step, flap, ball change. 

David had a talent for giving the perfect gifts, cooking delicious foods, making amazing cocktails, and telling the best stories. His Christmas decorations, especially his Christmas village, along with he and Scott hosting holiday get-togethers, were the highlight of Christmas time. David enjoyed any reason for a celebration. His favorite pastime was planning a party with a good theme. He enjoyed traveling, especially to Tennessee. Nothing made David happier than doing nice things for the people he loved. David leaves a joyful legacy for all who were lucky enough to know him. 

Along with his husband, Scott, he is survived by his two siblings, Timothy A. Simmons and Susan (David) Crump; father in law Allen Rennie; sister in law Patti (Joe) Godlewski; brothers in law Dennis (Paula) Rennie and Matt (Amy) Rennie; several nieces and nephews who called him “Aunt David”; two aunts; and a multitude of close friends. Along with his parents, David was predeceased by his niece Nicole M. Crump and his mother in law Carol Rennie. 

Calling hours will be held at Cummings Funeral Service, Inc., Watertown on Monday, September 18, from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM. A reception to celebrate David's life will be on Tuesday, September 19 at Garland City Beer Works at noon. Online condolences to his family may be posted at www.cummingsfuneral.com. In lieu of flowers, donations in his name may be made to Stage Notes, P. O. Box 421 or Walker Center for Cancer Care, 830 Washington St., both in Watertown, NY 13601.  


#35 Lisa Parker 2023-09-18 16:16
To all of David’s family and friends our condolences. I had the pleasure of working with David at the DOT, always willing to help you out in anyway he could and always willing to listen. He will be missed by many.
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#34 Christina Liberatos 2023-09-18 15:19
It is a shock to hear of David's passing. I worked with him at NYSDOT for many years and found him to be just a good, good person. Friendly and accepting of everyone, he extended a huge personality, great humor, and simple kindness. David did not waste a minute of time living life fully and exuberantly. Such a sad loss for Scott, family, and community.
God Bless him !
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#33 Tracy Fowler 2023-09-18 15:17
“Joyful legacy”: David. ❤️
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#32 Kirk Palmer 2023-09-17 07:19
David's optimism was infectious. His energy was inspiring and his love was genuine!
I worked with David on many shows through Lyric theatre and the Miss NYS pageant. He was extremely talented and made every production joyus, no matter how difficult a situation might have seemed.
My deepest condolences to his husband, family and fellow friends.
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#31 Anna Luisi-Ellis 2023-09-16 15:30
I am incredibly sad to hear about the passing of Dave Simmons. With his larger than life personality and kind heart, it’s hard to imagine a world without him in it. I had the privilege of working with him at WHS from 2000-2004 in Select Choir and shows. I still remember so many of the combinations he taught us. I first met him when I was in first grade as a “little sister” in the Miss New York Pageant for three years. Having Dave as a choreographer was more than just learning how to dance. He taught us how to be confident, be proud of ourselves, and how to work and play hard. He infused his humor, his love, and his zest for life into everything he did. I feel so fortunate to have had him in my life for such formative years, and my memories of him have always been, and will continue to be a blessing. He made the world a better place.
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#30 Bob Simpson 2023-09-16 10:59
I had the pleasure of sitting at the desk next to David at the Department of Transportation for many years. Working with Dave was always a pleasure. He was the administration person for the Operations Division for the five county region handling all kinds of issues on a daily basis. I know all of us at DOT felt that he was not just a coworker, but he was family and we are all deeply saddened that he is no longer with us but having him in our lives made us all better people in many ways.
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#29 Marty Northrop 2023-09-16 10:16
The outpouring of grief, nostalgia, and love for David, for his partner, for Russ, and for our Watertown community this week shows so clearly what was so special about him--that he helped build good in the world. Yes, sometimes with finger-whistles that would pierce your lungs, but always with the intention of inspiring you dance and learn and do things you didn't know you could. There are thousands of us who can touch-step with the best, but more importantly, because that's what theater is all about, after all, can feel connected to each other and get joy from life. Finally, David was one of many humans who happened to be gay through a time in history when we were still backwards about accepting and celebrating that, and look where we are now. Without people like David, we wouldn't have arrived at a more inclusive, tolerant, and hopefully happy place.
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#28 JoAnn Ives 2023-09-15 17:06
David was a near and dear friend. I loved his energy, his excitement for life and watching him dance with his whole heart in it. I knew David going way back to working in the VA office in the State Office Building. There are no words to express the huge loss this community has suffered. He was an incredible man that always put others before himself. Peace be unto you, my dear dear friend and may perpetual show lights shine upon him today and always. To his family, I am so so sorry for your loss and know you remain in my prayers today and always.
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#27 Morgan OConnor 2023-09-15 17:01
David Simmons is one of the kindest, funniest, most talented and most patient people I have ever met. My experience in WHS’s Select Choir was truly a bright light in my day/school experience, largely due to Dave. He had an amazing way of truly connecting with everyone he came into contact with and reminding us that we belong, that we’re important, and that quite literally everyone can dance. Sending all the love and light to anyone who knows and loves Dave during this difficult time.
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#26 Ora J. Ball 2023-09-15 07:51
Lived next door on Cooper St.
Prayers for Peace and comfort for His loved ones. Though absent he remains in the hearts and minds he touched. Dancing now in the light and peace of the creator. Dance and smile on.
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