Bill Smith was a good man, a better husband and father
February 27, 2018
I began working part time for The Reporter during college in 1977. My mother, Roberta F. Smith, was the editor of the paper then and it was owned by Typecraft Press.
Mom The Reporter from Typecraft in January of 1979, just after I graduated from Point Park College with my degree in Journalism and Communication. She agreed to allow me to work with her until I could find a real job. Almost 40 years later I'm still looking for that "real" job.
But this isn't about me, or even Mom, I want your indulgence while I remember my father, William T. Smith, Bill to his friends and family and most anyone else. Dad passed away on February 17, he was 85.
A question posed often to me over the 40 years was, "What does your Dad do with the paper?"
I would always be quick to answer, "Oh, he doesn't work at the paper. It's my mother and me." How wrong I could be?
Without Dad, we wouldn't have been able to publish the paper or at least much of one. Mom never drove, she would often depend on Dad to take her to the evening meetings and pick her up after they were finished. He was there for her on weekends and holidays when Mom went to cover neighborhood events. Always waiting in the background for when he was needed.
Later, after he retired, he would help deliver our papers on the rare occasion the regular driver, his son-in-law John, was on vacation. Dad was never one to say no if he was able to help.
But he was more than just support for my mother and me with The Reporter, so much more.
In the early days, my father would often work multiple jobs to support his young family. I remember him bringing home examples of Christmas wrapping paper to show us how it took four colors to make full color in printing.
He cleaned windows, was a trolley operator, and drove a food truck – frying donuts at various stops along the route, as some of the many jobs he took to make ends meet. While living in St. Clair Village in the early 1960s, my father worked days and weekends while attending night school to become a hydraulic technician.
After graduation, Dad began working for Schroeder Brothers in McKees Rocks building hydraulic testing equipment for use in coal mines. Shortly after, my parents bought their first home, a five-room fixer-upper in Allentown. It was cozy with my two sisters sharing a bedroom and my brother and I another, but it was home.
My father was the consummate do-it-yourselfer, remodeling and renovating our family's home one room at a time as he had the time and money. It wasn't unusual to have unfinished drywall walls in a room for months at a time. Seeing as this was the late 60s and early 70s by this time, the walls would eventually all get covered with various shades of wood paneling.
Keeping with the times, he would sometimes bring home sculptures of various geometric shapes he had cut and welded together to make "modern art" pieces. If I look hard enough in my parents' basement and garage, I might even be able to find a piece or two of his "art."
As youngsters during the summer my parents would load their four kids in the car before dawn to drive to a different state park. We would go to Moraine, Keystone, Crooked Creek and Presque Isle state parks, among others.
My brother Tim remembers having breakfast at the parks cooked on a Coleman stove. "They were the best eggs I ever ate and I don't like eggs," he would say.
Dad was a sportsman and would hunt and fish and enjoyed canoeing and camping. When my siblings and I were young, my father would go hunting with my mother's brothers. It wasn't unusual for us to have small game on the dinner table back then.
My father would give up hunting as he got older, but still enjoyed shooting and was a long-time member of the Millvale Sportsmen's Club. I would occasionally meet him after work or on the weekend to shoot holes in paper targets. Later, he would go to the range with his grandchildren, who enjoyed not only the shooting, but his company.
In the 1980s my father and I bought a used boat together, a (very) small cabin cruiser with a flybridge. My parents enjoyed towing the boat to Lake Erie and staying on it for a week at a time during the summer. During the rest of the summer we docked it with friends on the Allegheny River, close enough to use after work and on weekends.
As the boat got older and required more maintenance and upkeep to keep running, we were fortunate Dad was also a master mechanic.
Then there were the fishing trips we took in the spring each year. Whether to Port Clinton for walleye, Ocean City for shark or a dozen places in-between Dad could usually be counted on to catch the biggest fish.
"If you want big fish, you have to use big bait," he would tell us.
In his later years he, along with my sister Sandy, became interested in exploring his family history. They would talk about his ancestors, where they lived and what they did for hours.
I can honestly say, my father always made time for my sisters, brother and me. He would make an effort to take an interest in what we were interested in and participate whenever he could. The same would hold true with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Thank you again for allowing me to tell you a just small portion of who William T. Smith, my father, was, his humor, his knowledge, his love. All you really need to know was that he was a good man, a better husband and father.
I'm going to miss him.