Emil Smith was an American original, with compassion for others
News of Emil Smith’s tragic death slammed both my wife and me when we saw the headline in the Hub. I did not know him as well as Paul Lauricella, but I knew the heart of a man with great soul and precious little, if any, spiritual downside. Paul’s loving tribute to him was, to me, right on point.
I met Emil in late spring, 2013. A few people had told me what a decent guy he was. The Orleans Conservatives were running him for the County Legislature. I went to his home to assess where he stood on local issues, particularly the impending sale of the County Nursing Home. My thought was that he might be someone The Concerned Citizens could run on the Save Our Nursing Home independent line.
Emil’s trademark Ford Ranger pulled into his driveway as I arrived. Within minutes, his heart and engaging genuineness were apparent. Many conservatives seem to take the virtues of privatization as a “given.” Not Emil. Just as so many other thoughtful Orleans residentsincluding most conservatives I knowhe was not having any of it where the vulnerable elderly were concerned.
Emil perfectly illustrated how stereotyping people based on labels is a fool’s errand. His conservatism was a family values oriented belief system with appropriate doses of common sense and fiscal realism. Spending other people’s money was, to Emil, something that should be taken seriously.
Emil was convinced that making equipment last was consistent with representing those who, like him, had to keep things working out of basic frugality and economic necessity. But honoring the many sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents on our behalf was not negotiable.
Emil loved getting to know people, because he cared about others and what they thought. As someone else mentioned, he was a talker, but he was also a listener with loads of compassion. He was an endlessly fascinating mix of interests and values.
It is our loss that Gregory Emil Smith was snatched from us too soon. In the very best sense, Orleans County has lost an American original.