Lawrence W. "Larry" Simns Sr., a fourth-generation waterman and longtime advocate for the Chesapeake Bay and those who make their living from its waters, died Thursday of bone cancer at his Rock Hall home. He was 75.
"Larry stood sentry for the watermen of the Chesapeake Bay for over 40 years and courageously carried their banner into the 21st century," Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said in a statement.
"He fought to preserve their traditions and their opportunity to work on the water like their forefathers," she said. "He also had the tough challenge of helping them navigate a tough economy and difficult environmental factors facing our beloved bay."
"It is hard to imagine that Larry has been the dominant figure and speaker for the industry and watermen for 40 years," said John R. Griffin, state secretary of natural resources.
"He had amazing strength and fought and kept on pushing until the end. He was always looking ahead to set the course for the future for both the industry and watermen," said Mr. Griffin. "When God made Larry Simns, he threw away the mold, and filling his shoes will not be easy."
The son of Clifton Simns, a waterman and part-time barber, and Rebecca Simns, a homemaker, Lawrence William Simns Sr. was born and raised in Rock Hall, where he spent his entire life.
After graduating from Rock Hall High School in 1956, he looked to the Chesapeake Bay for his livelihood.
"He went right on the water and graduated from the school of hard knocks," said a stepson, Scott Hyland, who lives in Worton.
"I've known Larry most of our lives, and he was an A-1 waterman. He could do it all — crabs, oysters, clams and fish," said H. Russell Dieze, a Tilghman Island waterman and vice president of the Maryland Watermen's Association.
More than 40 years ago, pointing out the virtual disappearance of some fish stocks and low oyster and crab yields from what was clearly an ailing estuary, Mr. Simns found the mission that occupied him for the remainder of his life.
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