Art Smith is an institution around Wetaskiwin. He won't turn 94 until December, but one of his nieces enlisted the aid of a couple more to put on a birthday celebration of, “We Love Art” during the lovely summer weather. It was an open house at By-The-Lake Park, and as people came and went, the space was always filled with a cross-section of the whole community from the mayor to former students to those most needing help. Art loves everyone, and everyone loves Art.
Thoughtful aspects adding to the enjoyment of the afternoon were the buttons for everyone, “We (heart) Art,” the continual power point presentation of captioned pictures from Art's life, the musician singing and playing for the later part, and, of course, the delicious and bountiful food. Art was in his glory, chatting with everyone, enjoying so many of the people he loves and who love him. Of course, those who were there were also enjoying visiting with each other.
Art Smith is best known as a teacher and as a volunteer. In 2000, he received a ‘Caring Citizen’ Award from then Governor General Adrian Clarkson. Much of his volunteering and service to others has been done through the auspices of Family Services, the United Church, Meals on Wheels, Gleaners, and the NDP. However, he somehow manages to find ways to extend and expand the scope of his service to involve more people and to help more people.
From his arrival in Wetaskiwin in 1955 until his retirement in 1985, Mr. Smith taught biology at Wetaskiwin High School. (“Composite” was added to the school name somewhere along the way.) I was in his class in about his fourth year here. He could teach, and although he had little class control, he loved us and we loved him and we learned from him. Some of the tricks students pulled on him in his classes were outrageous, but he took it all with great good humour. He also added to his classes a demonstration on hypnotizing a chicken. During those years, he also coached basketball, minor hockey and T-ball.
Born in 1920 into the family of a Methodist minister, Art was one of twins in the family of eight children. When his twin, Harold, enlisted for World War II, Art was rejected on medical grounds. After Harold died overseas, Art tried again to enlist and was accepted into the 4th Armoured Division and saw action in France, Belgium, and Holland. After the war, he came to Wetaskiwin and married Madeline in 1949. They had four children, Harold, Allison, Em, and Glen. He has two grandchildren. Madeline, whom he speaks of as “the best wife a man could have,” has passed away.
Everyone is special and unique, and Art Smith would be the first to celebrate that fact. Some people are extra special and unique, and rise above their fellows and stand out. Art Smith is one of these outstanding individuals, although in his humility he would deny it. It is wonderful that so many had this opportunity to celebrate Art and show their appreciation for him and to him.
Pictured: A joyful Art Smith with one of his nieces who assisted in planning this event. Photo by Margaret Chegwin