August 1, 2011

Feature Obituary: Beatrice Smith, inspiring mom; George Smith, war hero, climber

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

As they lay in separate hospital beds during the final days of their lives, the Smiths were able to reach out and hold each other's hand -- a symbol of the love and trust that sustained them during their 64-year marriage.

click image to enlarge

Beatrice and George Smith of Augusta were married for 64 years and died within a day of each other, both at age 85.

Family photo

PASSAGES

Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or family and friends in lasting ways.

Beatrice Lorraine Morgan Smith died July 21 at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta. Her husband, George Lawrence Smith, died July 22. The longtime Augusta residents were both 85 years old. "You can hardly prepare for this (two parents dying at the same time), but they were very close and enjoyed their time together," said one of their two sons, David Smith of Augusta.

Though Mr. Smith's accomplishments as a distinguished World War II soldier and mountain climber made him a hero, David Smith said his mother was equally inspiring, not only as a mom, but also as a person.

"I think my mother was the kindest and gentlest person I ever met, and over a person's lifetime that's a hard record to keep," Smith said.

Her other son, Larry Smith of Ojai, Calif., echoed his brother's sentiments. "My mother treated everyone equally and with respect. She was a wonderful mother," he said.

Mrs. Smith was born in Randolph and graduated from Lawrence High School in 1942. She was working as a secretary at the University of Maine in Orono when she met her future husband. He had returned to Maine after the war to study at UMaine. They were married June 21, 1947.

The couple lived in Richmond for a few years before moving to Augusta in 1960. They both worked for state government.

Mr. Smith received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for heroism during the Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg.

During one battle, David Smith said his father's unit had nearly run out of ammunition. Mr. Smith and a comrade got in a Jeep, drove to pick up more ammunition and on the way back to the front lines was severely wounded when a mortar shell exploded next to his vehicle.

"All he can remember is turning toward his companion," David Smith said. That sudden movement probably saved his life. Fragments of the shell entered his arm and shoulder, stopping just short of his heart.

Years later, a winter rescue of stranded climbers on Mount Washington in New Hampshire further demonstrated Mr. Smith's courage.

Larry Smith said his father scaled a wall of ice in the middle of the night to help a stranded climber and a rescuer. The climber had originally been trapped by an avalanche.

Mr. Smith received the Carnegie Hero Fund's bronze medal for the March 1968 rescue, which Smith said saved the men's lives. The fund was established to recognize heroism by civilians from across the U.S.

Smith said his father never sought recognition for his efforts. "He was always pretty humble," Larry Smith said.

During his career, Mr. Smith trained soldiers, Marines, climbers and state park rangers in mountain rescue techniques.

The Smiths had been living in their Augusta home until recently, when they were admitted to MaineGeneral Medical Center.

The Smiths will be buried together at the new Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta on Friday.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

 

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