In his last years, Sam Simon redefined what it meant to be living with cancer. He was fulfilling his dreams and raising awareness about issues he cared about until his last breath.
Simon, who was most famous for co-creating The Simpsons, died on Sunday at the age of 59.
He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2012 and was told he only had three to six months left to live. That’s when he vowed to give away his fortune to charity—he made millions every year in royalties from The Simpsons and other producing credits on TV shows like Cheers, Taxi, and The Drew Carey Show.
The one-hour documentary “Rebel with a Cause: The Sam Simon Story” will air this Sunday, March 15, at 8:00 p.m. on FUSION.
“I’m not driven by long-term decisions that someone would make if they’re trying to have as much money as they can when they’re 90 years old,” Simon said during an interview for the documentary “Rebel with a Cause: The Sam Simon Story” that will air this Sunday, March 15, at 8:00 p.m. on FUSION.
The Sam Simon Story, an upcoming Fusion documentary documenting his life as he fought cancer. (See a preview of the documentary above.)
“I have a limited time on Earth to do what I can do until I’m gone,” he said. “You are a little more aware of it when you’re sick.”
Some who follow the philanthropy world closely said they’d never seen anyone try to unload a fortune quite so fast. Perhaps it was his commitment and love for animal rights that helped extend his fight.
Even a few days before he passed away, Simon was raising awareness about sea animals in captivity. When singer Britney Spears tweeted a photo of herself swimming with dolphins in Las Vegas, Simon responded.
“[The dolphins you] swim with are captured [and] killed at Taiji,” he tweeted to his 58,000 followers, referring to the dolphin hunting operations in Taiji, Japan, made famous in the documentary The Cove.
Simon cared deeply about sea animals and illegal fishing. He donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an activist marine conservation organization that fights against whaling and illegal fishing. The group named a ship after Simon: the MY Sam Simon.
Late last year he also spent some $8,000 to save a bull that was going to be killed because he was suspected of being gay; the 5,000-pound farm animal had failed to breed with any cows. Simon purchased the bull and then made a sizeable donation to a farm to take in “Benjy the gay bull.”
Last August, he paid $50,000 to buy a farm just to be able to rescue some 400 chinchillas and close down the business. Before that, he made a sizeable donation to the animal rights group PETA so they could purchase 17 bears and free them from small concrete pens at roadside zoos in Georgia.
Simon also founded the Sam Simon Foundation, which helps needy families in Los Angeles and veterans. The foundation provides vegan meals to 400 needy families every day in Los Angeles. The group also rescues and trains dogs to help Iraq and Afghanistan veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
Throughout his illness Simon kept his sense of humor, the same quick and sarcastic humor that made him famous.
“Dr. Goldman needed a urine sample, a blood sample, a fecal sample, and a semen sample,” he says in the forthcoming documentary, joking from his hospital bed. “So I just gave him my shorts.”