I’m pretty sad, a friend was buried today.
George Smith was the chief photographer at the Courier News when I arrived in 1987. George was a feisty New Jerseyan, always carrying a mischievous smile on his face and ready to help you out.
George documented a lot of New Jersey history. He loved to show off his helmet with full face mask that he used when covering the Plainfield riots in the summer of ’67, back when he was “full of piss and vinegar.” He was always amazed that he got to cruise with local resident Malcolm Forbes on his yacht or chase Malcolm and Elizabeth Taylor as they buzzed around on Malcolm’s motorcycle.
George started taking pictures while in the Navy during the Korean War, mostly from the air. He enjoyed teaching the young news photographers, especially how to get a “quicky drive-by,” which involved being able to get a photo from your car without coming to a complete stop. He retired in 1993, kinda. He was still working one day a week in the photo lab until about 2005 when tight budgets cleared out all part-timers.
If there was a professional organization, George was not just a member, he was active and could always be counted on to organize a program or keep it running. He brought some of the top photographers from around the country to speak at New Jersey programs, hoping their enthusiasm would rub off on others. He chaired the photo contest for the NJ Press Association for many years, even after retiring. One year I helped make some PVC displays for the contest and around sunrise on Sunday morning after Saturday night’s late banquet I heard some commotion in my garage. I put on my robe and went out to find George and fellow not-so-young photographer Dick Costello up in the rafters putting away the displays. Those two worked at competing newspapers for years yet were the best of friends.
George loved his Knights of Columbus and he made it to the top of that too. We tried to get him to bring his sword into the newspaper office, but he knew there would be embarrassing photos made, so we never got to see the sword or his big hat with the feather.
But mostly George loved his family, his wife Marie, who stuck it out with George for 65 years of marriage. As long as I knew him, George talked about how he didn’t understand how he was so lucky to have Marie for a wife. He was proud of his two children, Caryn, who is a physician and Brian, who traveled the world for a technology company and wrote books. George didn’t always know what Brian was doing in far-off lands, but if it made Brian happy, then George was happy.
George was one of the good ones. I was lucky to know him.
His obit is at http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/mycentraljersey/obituary.aspx?n=george-r-smith&pid=169362804&fhid=14187