There are a lot of ways to remember George Smith.

Smith, who died last week at the age of 72, was a newspaper columnist – one of the best, writing about life in and out of the Maine woods every week for three decades.

He was an outdoorsman, too, of course, one who knew as much as anyone about hunting and fishing in our state.

He was a political operative, a lobbyist and an activist. He was a traveler, a seeker, a storyteller and a raconteur.

In his very full life, George Smith was all of these things. He was whatever he needed to be to be involved – to be engaged with the world around him, and to stand up for the people and places he loved.

For 18 years as the head of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, he was a fierce advocate for everyone who loves hunting and fishing. On issues of policy, he was a feared opponent. He was so knowledgeable that legislators often sought answers from him; in fact, he had often written the legislation.

But he was no ideologue. In the decade after he left SAM, George became an ally to the environmentalists he once fought so hard in the Legislature. He could see how the climate crisis was affecting his beloved Maine outdoors.

If George softened in his later years, it was because he thought we all should. Politics had become a lot more coarse, he said, in the time since he first got involved, as an aide for Bill Cohen during Cohen’s run for Congress in 1972.

Most people fighting over legislation in Augusta were there for the right reasons, George thought. If they just took some time to talk things through, they could find common ground – and a way forward.

Even if that wasn’t true everywhere, it certainly had to be true in Maine.

Above everything else, George believed in the promise of our state. A border may just be a line on a map, but George knew something special happened when you came into Maine. He could feel it.

And George wanted others to feel it too. He wanted to save all of Maine’s special places so that they could be enjoyed for generations, by anyone who could get there. He wanted more people to come here and make it home, whether they were coming from New Hampshire or the other side of the world.

None of that changed when George was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis four years ago. Even though he knew his time was short, he did not stop pushing for what he thought was right.

On top of everything else, he gave people insight into his horrible disease. He gave a voice to the thousands of Americans are diagnosed with ALS every year, and he showed everyone how to handle hardship with grace, dignity and optimism.

He took on the final phase of life with the same energy he had tackled everything else. He was doing what he loved to do.

More than anything, though, George Smith loved Maine, and he woke up every morning trying to make it a better place.

What a legacy that is to leave behind.


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