Carol B. Simmons 1947-2006

by Alan Bleiman, MA, JD

carrol_simmons4.jpgCarol B. Simmons of Santa Barbara;
Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and Dharamsala, India, made her transition
on September 12 from Cottage Hospital. She had maintained a home in
Santa Barbara beginning in 1993, when she moved here to be closer
to our younger sister Joyce and mother Elle Bleiman.

Carol was my younger sister by 54 weeks. In our way, we were
quite close — although I did try to kill her twice as a toddler and
once again in a fight over car keys when I was 17; the latter
effort was aborted when I slipped on a banana peel in a household
hallway. Despite our closeness, I always judged her harshly. I went
through NYU while she quit college to pursue romance with a guy I
disliked; after graduation I discontinued using the drugs to which
I’d introduced her. I became a drug rehab counselor to returning
Vietnam vets while Carol dried bales of pot on the floor of her New
York City apartment. I was intense, intellectual, and “socially
conscious,” while Carol trotted — fancy-free — around the U.S. and
Europe, savoring all types of experiences. How I loathed her
irresponsibility while secretly envying her fearlessness!

While Joyce and I pursued conventional, suburban business and
professional lives, Carol went on to break bones on the luge run of
the St. Moritz Bobsled Club, establish herself as a ranking western
rodeo competitor and certified South African bush guide, manage a
co-op Zulu and Endobele village craft industries in apartheid South
Africa and Zimbabwe, travel horseback among the Reindeer People of
northern Mongolia and the Tibetan Plateau, and build a small home
among Tibetan refugees in the Indian Himalayas. It was a far cry
from her suburban New York roots.

Born and raised in New Rochelle, New York, Carol attended local
schools and the University of Cincinnati pre-med program, which she
did not complete. Strongly encouraged by our parents to make
something of her life through suitable employment, she
distinguished herself early by getting expelled from the Katharine
Gibbs Secretarial School for refusing to wear white gloves and
seamed silk stockings. She briefly worked in the Stock Exchange
before managing to get hired as an assistant to producer and Bee
Gees manager Robert Stigwood during the making of Saturday Night
Fever. Two years later, she moved to Basel, Switzerland, her base
as she traveled Europe for three years before returning to the
States to marry a New York real estate man — Steven Leibler — and
purchase the Painted Apple Ranch outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She
remained married for 13 years.

From Jackson Hole, Carol traveled extensively and became
entranced by Africa and its peoples. Through her association with
the large, efficacious relief organization Operation Hunger, Carol
helped Zulu and Endobele villagers market their basketry, rugs, and
beadwork. She expanded her concern for and involvement in the
plight of Africa’s dwindling cheetah population. During her time in
Africa, she began an education in photography that she pursued
professionally until her death.

During the past 15 years, Carol traveled throughout Asia,
particularly devoting her attention to northern India, where she
established strong relationships among the Tibetan refugee
families. It seemed she was constantly coming or going, usually
alone. With Carol, it was always some version of show and tell:
“Come look at this (or that)!” She continually begged us to join
her adventures: “Come meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama in
Dharamsala!” “Come ride the Tibetan Plateau with me!”

“One of these days,” I’d promise, postponing another

In the meantime, my irresponsible, globe-trotting little sister
went on to leave her indelible mark on countless lives. Sleeping in
jeeps, trains, tents, yurts, and flea-ridden inns, she had
countless friends among indigenous Africans, Wyoming cowboys, and
homeless Tibetan refugees. Always there when needed, she was
selflessly generous with her siblings. She also paid for the food,
rents, medical care, and college tuitions of countless people.
Since Carol suffered from clinical depression the majority of her
life, her devotion to constant movement and her love for the
culturally wrought faces of the Third World seemed essential to her

At the end of her life, we came to know Carol in a new and
crystallized way, piercing the veil that had prevented us from
seeing her as the exceptional woman she was. Her life was a model
of Jesus’ admonition regarding charity: “When you give, don’t let
the right hand know what the left hand is doing.” We will miss her
terribly, as will her friends at home and around the world. Her
path was a great example to us all.

Carol’s photographic work can be accessed at
Donations may be made in Carol’s name to Oprah’s Angel Network at


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