East Carondelet mayor promotes wrestling, weight loss

News-DemocratMay 5, 2013 

Herb Simmons grew up with a mother and grandmother who loved watching Pat O'Connor and Dick "the Bruiser" battle it out in the ring.

Professional wrestling helped the whole family survive hot summer nights in East St. Louis public housing.

"We would take our black-and-white television outside," said Herb, 59, of East Carondelet. "All the neighbors would sit on the grass or bring their lawn chairs, and we'd watch 'Wrestling at the Chase.'"

The legendary St. Louis TV show influenced Herb to grow up and work as a professional wrestling promoter for more than 40 years.

He produces two shows a month under the auspices of Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling, often raising money for charity.

"Herb is into so many things," said Charlie Ragle, 41, of Belleville, an independent TV producer who tapes his shows. "He wears so many hats.

"But when he talks about wrestling, he changes. His face lights up. He loves wrestling. He lives and bleeds wrestling."

The comedy and theatrics of professional wrestling create a stress-free diversion from Herb's two other, more-serious jobs.

He's mayor of East Carondelet and recently was promoted from St. Clair County's assistant emergency management director to CenCom 9-1-1 director.

"I go way back in emergency services," said Herb, who started as an ambulance driver before the days of EMTs and paramedics.

He met Margaret "Mickey" Simmons, his wife of 38 years, delivering patients to St. Mary's Hospital of East St. Louis, where she worked as a nurse.

Herb later owned or co-owned an ambulance service, tow-truck business, bar, feed store, barbecue restaurant and upholstery shop. He was a Washington Park police dispatcher, Rosemont fireman and East Carondelet police chief.

Herb has been mayor since 1983. He also serves as a St. Clair County deputy coroner, Parks Commission chairman and Transit District trustee.

"He's one heck of a guy," said Stella Schmid, 87, former East Carondelet village clerk. "He'll help you out any way he can."

Herb is perhaps most proud of a personal achievement. He lost 250 pounds after undergoing gastric-bypass surgery in 2007.

Herb had gradually reached 500 pounds, despite his busy lifestyle. That caused medical problems, ranging from high blood pressure to sleep apnea.

"I had been on every type of diet known to man, and I probably invented a few myself," he said. "And I lost weight on them. I'd lose 50 or 100 pounds, and then I'd gain it back (adding additional weight). It was a roller-coaster."

Herb, who now weighs 280, is convinced the surgery saved his life. For three years, he gave presentations to people considering gastric bypass, showing off his size 70 pants.

"I've influenced people with my story," he said. "Some have followed in my footsteps and been successful, and that makes me feel great."

Herb and Mickey have four children and 18 grandchildren. Mickey, 66, is a nurse at Dupo High School.

Last year was a difficult one for the family. On Feb. 28, a dryer vent explosion and fire caused their house to burn down.

"I just feel so blessed," Mickey said. "The grandkids, the animals -- we all got out."

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service