David Simser, a Barnstable County entomologist who specialized in studying ticks and Lyme disease, died Friday at 57.
Cape Cod Times/
Steve Heaslip By Mary Ann Bragg
November 28, 2010
A man who loved bugs — really loved bugs — died Friday.
Entomologist David Simser, 57, the Cape and Island's tick and Lyme disease specialist, died of prostate cancer at the McCarthy Care Center hospice facility in Sandwich.
He'd gotten married a week earlier in Cape Cod Hospital, in a hurry-up wedding with his 10-year partner, Kimberly Amaral, after learning of the dire outlook.
The wedding, Amaral said Saturday, started out as a small, quiet union but ballooned with the help of friends into a 40-person affair with flowers, rings, decorations, a wedding dress, drummers and food all crammed into a hospital suite.
"It was a full-fledged wedding put together in 12 hours by all our friends," said Amaral, a biology teacher who lived with Simser in Marstons Mills.
Simser first learned of the cancer in February 2009, his wife said.
Simser made people laugh. He impressed them with his generous nature and open-door home, his love of dogs, and his unparalleled knowledge of the Cape and Islands' nature and conservation areas.
In the days just before his death, he still cared about specific, detailed news of the region's tick population, and he held a special place in his heart for ladybugs and monarch butterflies, Amaral said.
Simser endeared himself to his 20-year friend, Diane Kovanda of Centerville, a justice of peace who married the couple, when he read a tender poem at a Hyannis coffeehouse that — surprisingly — turned out to be about a spider.
He also appeared, along with his dog Ishmael, in a documentary about people with Lyme disease called "Under Our Skin."
"He just loved bugs, everything about bugs," said friend and co-worker Peter McCormack of Marstons Mills, a field researcher at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension.
Simser's research merited national attention, according to Robert Hillger, senior science adviser for the New England region of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Simser's research and work covered the emerging study of ticks carrying multiple viruses, not just Lyme disease, a type of infection called co-infection.
Several months ago, Simser received a $100,000 federal grant to continue that research on the Cape and Islands, part of which involves 50 deer feeding stations.
The feeding stations are designed in a way to force the animals to roll against a pesticide that kills ticks before the deer reach the food, said Hillger and William Clark, Simser's boss at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension.
Simser's research will help public health professionals nationwide better understand that a tick bite could infect a human with more than one virus, Hillger said Saturday.
The two-year, $100,000 grant has another 18 months of work to go, and follows on two years of research Simser conducted prior to the grant, he said. Hillger pledged to continue Simser's research.
"I love the guy," Hillger said of Simser, who had become a close friend.
On Saturday, Amaral recalled her first dates with Simser, after they'd gotten to know each other through mutual friends then through a local bike ride fundraiser.
On first dates, they conducted research, often "dragging for ticks" with white sheets in the woods, with Amaral taking notes on what was found. And they went on dog walks, she said. He joked — a lot — especially to make her happy.
"I'm really going to miss him," Amaral said. "He was brilliant. He really was."
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