Biography – Bob Smith
He loved potatoes, apple pie, people, history, gardening, beer, and laughing.
He was born in 1924, in Barney’s River, a suburb of Avondale, fourth of Clara and Walter Smith’s five children, in a house his father built. It was a moneyless farm, but there was always food to eat, and there was always a pump organ in the parlour. They were too poor to have dust bunnies under their beds, but he would go over to the neighbours’, and play with theirs. He loved the comics, particularly the ones where Nayland Smith and his incompetent sidekick, Petrie, would accidentally defeat the malign intentions of Fu Manchu.
He graduated first in his high school class, because he was the only kid in his high school class.
World War 2 interrupted his fish canning career. He signed up in the Air Force so he could fly, but the Air Force discovered he was blind as a bat. They gave him glasses, and taught him how to activate and deactivate bombs, and how to put them on planes.
After World War 2, Bob went to St. FX University, got his education, and turned himself into a doctor.
Somewhere in there he met Kaye Henderson, from Newcastle Creek. They married, doctored, nursed, and had four kids (two doctors and two teachers.) They moved from Truro to Bedeque to Halifax to Winnipeg to Saint John, where they finally settled. 40 years went by quickly: the Carmarthan Street office practice, hospital rounds and weekends on call, reading journals, iris and poppy tending, occasional visits to the PEI cottage, and reading more journals.
At 70, after 40 years of being Dr. Smith, he stopped and became Bob, volunteer art hanger and carpenter at large, garden club regular and museum tour guide. He and Kaye travelled the world, and his garden grew larger and richer. There was room for grandchildren and, eventually, a whole deer herd in his garden.
His legacy is two generations of Saint John babies who are healthier for having known him. His first patients in Saint John are probably in their sixties now, and his last patients would be in their twenties, but everyone is a little healthier – and some are alive – because they went down those five steps on 107B Carmarthan Street, sat next to the large cartoon characters he had painted on the wall panels, and rode the old hobby horse until the doctor could see them.
Bob was curious about art. He took some oil painting classes, and some watercolour classes when he retired. He loved everything about the art thing: choosing a topic, usually a photo to work from; drawing it out and adding the random magic of watercolour; and framing it afterwards. He was never satisfied with the final product – all the rewards for him were in the doing. He painted everything – landscapes, seascapes, architecture, still lives – and slowly worked on his mastery of the paint.