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Article Published February 8, 2016

Peter Nelson Sims


Peter Sims of Madison died Jan. 26 after battling renal cancer for almost three years. He was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on March 8, 1961, to Howard and the late Barbara (Ellis) Sims. He attended high school at Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, and received his BA from the University of New Hampshire and his MA in archaeology from Columbia University. He spent most of his working life in the field of book publishing in New York City (where he met his wife Amy in 1986 when they were both working at William Morrow), Iowa City, and New Haven. He worked for the Yale Alumni Association before retiring in 2013.

Peter Sims did not live as long as he wanted, but he had many happy and meaningful moments while he was with us. One achievement was the sheer amount of literature he read, a near literal mountain of books that ranged from Chekhov and Nabokov, to some truly obscure and occasionally awful works (a side effect of finishing every book he started). And he’d be proud to have people know that the weight of his library caused half of his house to start sinking. He was also proud of his two sons, Max and Chet, whom he treated like adults and talked to about literature, philosophy, and music, all for hours on end. He loved his wife Amy and enjoyed finding her fun jewelry, always colorful. And he loved his little schnoodle dog Hubert.

Peter was a wonderfully complicated man. He was one of the few people (perhaps the only person) who would take a break from reading existentialist literature to catch an episode of The Jersey Shore. And during his favorite holiday, Christmas, his top seasonal songs ranged from Bach’s Oratorio, to a recording of the opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, to South Park’s official Christmas soundtrack. But outside of Christmas and fireplace fires (as he called them), Peter much preferred summer over winter, and could usually be found tending to his gorgeous garden, or reading his books at the beach.

Peter was also a phenomenal chef and an enthusiast for food, eager to share a meal with his family and friends. And he was a collector, compiling an impressive stash of baseball cards, ashtrays, stamps, and miniature turtle sculptures. Peter was even an archeologist, working both close to his home in Connecticut, and abroad in the Middle East when he was a younger man. To top it all off, he has had both his short stories and haiku published in The Folio Club and Bottle Rockets, respectively.

And as the varied individual he was, Peter had a vast and diverse group of friends, who all miss him immensely. It is customary to speak well of the dead—De mortuis nil nisi bonum—but Peter truly was a special man. He was a father, a husband, a friend, a chef, a punner, a writer, a master gardener, lover of music, a goofball, a thinker, and a reader. And at the end of each work day, on his way back home, he would help himself to what he called a “victory candy.” It was his way of celebrating a job well done. So wherever he is, hopefully he is enjoying a victory candy right now, because he has certainly earned it.

A memorial service will be held for Peter in June.