YOUNGSTOWN - It was no surprise to those who knew him that the Rev. Lonnie Simon died during one of the largest storm systems ever to hit the United States.
''It was just like Rev. Simon to go out in the midst of a storm,'' said one of the performers at his memorial tribute Friday, Karen Fears.
Simon, 87, who was a pastor for several years and who once marched on Montgomery, Ala., in 1965 with the Rev. Martin Luther King, died Monday evening as the nation was in the throes of the massive Hurricane Sandy.
Tribune Chronicle / Joe Gorman
Don Marshall recites a poem he wrote in honor of the Rev. Lonnie Simon, who died Monday, during a tribute service Friday at New Bethel Baptist Church in Youngstown.
The tribute was held at New Bethel Baptist Church on Hillman Avenue, where he once served as pastor and was pastor emeritus. His son, the Rev. Kenneth Simon, is now the lead pastor at the church.
Simon also served as pastor at two other churches and was involved in several community functions. The Rev. Lewis Macklin, pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, said the city should be grateful not only to Simon, but his family for the work they've done.
''This family has been gracious enough to share Rev. Simon with us,'' Macklin said. ''This community owes them a collective thank you.''
The Rev. Lonnie Simon
Longtime pastor of three churches
Marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Montgomery, Ala., in 1965
Tribute from 9 to 11 a.m. today at New Bethel Baptist Church, funeral services to follow at 11 a.m.
Macklin said Friday's service was a good way to pay tribute to Simon.
''If you knew Pastor Simon, he was a worshipper,'' Macklin said.
The Rev. Jim Ray said he met Simon in the 1960s during the civil rights movement, and that when he came to Youngstown to serve at Youngstown State University in 1985, he wanted to meet with the area's leaders in the African-American community and he sought Simon.
Ray, who is white, said Simon's life and actions were a living testament to the scriptures and how people are to treat one another in service and love for God.
''Lonnie was a model for me,'' Ray said.
Ron Daniels, who also spoke, a black activist in the community, said Simon was ''eclectic'' and helped him in the 1960s when the city was having racial problems.
''It's very difficult to reflect on this great man,'' Daniels said.
Sophia Brooks, a singer, reflected on growing up near the Simon home on Walnut Street and said that Simon introduced her to her first boyfriend, which is a reason why she went to his house often.
She said Simon encouraged her desire to sing and helped her career.
''He told me to be who I was,'' Brooks said.
Another tribute will be held at the church from 9 to 11 a.m today. Funeral services will begin at 11 a.m.