Simon came to America from Armenia at age 9 with his parents and four siblings. “We had nothing,” he said. “My father never believed in taking money from anyone. He didn’t want welfare. He said, ‘Give me jobs.’”
His dad went to work at a friend’s gas station in Detroit at Six Mile and Hoover. Opportunities began to open up for his family. “Shell Oil gave him the door opening, and from there on he worked hard,” Simon said. His father eventually owned 30 gas stations.
He passed his work ethic to his children. While both his parents worked two jobs, Sam worked, too, mowing lawns, delivering newspapers and pumping gas. “I also had to go to school to learn English,” he said. “It was a terrible time. We looked different. Our clothes didn’t match. In school, people used to spit on my food — it was the most horrible time for me.”
Although it was difficult, he said those times cemented his belief in the importance of family. “My father got me to understand how you dedicate yourself to hard work. If you want something, you must go after it and never give up. Nobody’s going to give it to you.”
By Jackie Headapohl
Photography by Rudy Thomas