Obituary: Donald E. Simon

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Don Simon, a Korean War veteran who led one of the largest home building firms in Wisconsin - and arguably one of the most quality-driven operations in the industry - died Aug. 31, 2001, from complications of diabetes and heart disease.

September 30, 2001
Don Simon was a home building leader in quality management.

Don Simon, a Korean War veteran who led one of the largest home building firms in Wisconsin - and arguably one of the most quality-driven operations in the industry - died Aug. 31 from complications of diabetes and heart disease. He was 73.

A native of Sun Prairie, Wis., Simon founded Don Simon Homes there in 1956 while working alongside his father, Warren, also a home builder. By the mid-’60s, Simon had diversified into land development and soon began building entire neighborhoods. The company surpassed 100 closings for the first time in 1976 and shortly thereafter began building homes in nearby Madison.

The firm tallied $44.4 million in sales on 243 closings last year. But that does not tell the complete story of a company that, under Simon’s leadership, underwent wholesale re-engineering. His son David, president and CEO of the company, says the goal of the re-engineering, which took place in the mid-’90s, was to increase profitability and customer satisfaction. Both grew dramatically in subsequent years.

As a direct result, the company won a National Housing Quality Silver Award for laying a solid foundation of quality processes and systems. Less than a year later, NHQ judges conducting a second site visit found that the company had "transformed" its operations to an even higher level, says Ed Caldeira, who administers the NHQ program.

Shortly before his death, Simon was on a long vacation in Europe when he received news that Don Simon Homes would receive the home building industry’s highest honor for quality practices, the NHQ Gold Award, for 2002.

David Simon says: "We lost a mentor, a good friend and a father."

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