“I’m really proud to be his daughter,” one of Ed’s four children, Jennifer, told The Telegram Friday evening. “Not because of his accomplishments, and he had many, but I was proud to be his daughter because of how much he cared about people, and how much he was always doing for others.
“No matter what his own challenges were — his health care, his education, his community, his church — he just cared. And that was the most wonderful thing about him.”
Smith’s early life was devoted to teaching, which he did in schools all over Newfoundland until he and his wife, Marion, finally settled down in Springdale. Together, they have four children and six grandchildren.
But Smith’s passion was writing. Widely known and loved for his storytelling, Smith began writing a humour column called “The View From Here” for the local newspaper in 1980, which today appears in numerous papers and magazines across Newfoundland and Labrador, including The Telegram.
Smith also published several books through Flanker Press in St. John’s, four of which are collections of his columns.
Flanker Press production manager Jerry Cranford said he was devastated by the news of Smith’s death, but remembers him as a great family man and friend.
“We absolutely loved the guy,” Cranford told The Telegram on Friday. “He just had a wicked sense of humour, he was always up on current events and he just found inspiration everywhere he went.
“I’m still kind of reeling. … Anyone who had the pleasure of meeting him or talking to him has said they loved him, as a teacher, as a person, and we certainly had that experience with him here, too.”
Smith’s life took a dark turn in 1998, two years after he retired from teaching, when he and Marion were in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down.
Cranford recalls that Smith never once let the accident hinder him, and in 2002 Flanker Press published Smith’s seventh book, “The Ashes of my Dreams,” following a series of short radio clips about life with quadriplegia that he wrote and presented on CBC the year before.
The book is an autobiography about Smith’s accident and his life afterward. Flanker Press describes it as “his adventures and misadventures of seventeen months in rehabilitation centres in Newfoundland and Toronto.”
In the book, Smith highlights his new life, from his pain to his triumphs, and everything in between. He also offers his own experiences and observations about the health care system, after being shuffled around from one medical facility to the next over the course of 17 months. The book won the 2003 Newfoundland and Labrador Rogers Cable Non-Fiction Book Award.
“He rallied his strength and he had his family’s support the whole way, and so he kept on writing,” Cranford said. “And he could most definitely hold his own against any other humour writer of our day.
“We were at the wake for his father,” he said, describing one of his fondest memories with Smith. “Ed loved his father so much. He knew that his dad had written a short autobiography called ‘The Grenfell I Knew’ about his experiences working at one of the Grenfell Stations up in the St. Anthony area, I believe, and about Dr. Wilfred Grenfell himself.
“It was one of Ed’s greatest wishes that his father’s book be published, and I just remember at the funeral home, Ed said that his father always wanted it issued as well, so my dad piped up and said something that always stuck with me: ‘Life is full of missed opportunities.’ Well, we published the book, and Ed was extremely happy.”
In 2001, Smith won the Gabriel Award for “writing that uplifts and inspires the human spirit,” as well as the 2001 Canadian Nurses’ Award for “excellence in writing and broadcasting in the field of health care.”
“I mean, he had that accident and he’s been going strong all this time since,” said Cranford, adding that Smith isn’t someone who can be easily forgotten. “Over time, I started thinking he was going to outlive us all because there was no stopping him,” he joked.
“I’m really going to miss him.”