Dick Truly, Lowell Haynes and Jack Crawford exemplify a legacy of true character and greatness in their service to our Northshore community and touched forever those who personally knew them.
Today, I add another person to that noteworthy list: Louise R. Smith, who recently passed away.
She was a longtime Kenmore resident and mother of Ann Panush, former principal of Canyon Creek and Arrowhead elementary schools.
Louise and I were typical friends. We told each other secrets, giggled about things we shouldn’t have been discussing, listened while the other one griped and shared old stories, most of which were not suitable for print. We also celebrated every holiday imaginable, including our June birthdays and toasted our publishing successes.
Louise was a former newspaper editor, lover of books and words and a prolific writer of amusing anecdotes. She wrote and published 34 essays between the ages of 90 and 95 alone that graced national magazines like Reminisce, Mature Years, Good Old Days, Dialogue and our Seattle Times. She was also a major contributor to Seattle’s Northwest Prime Time, once landing on the front page with her article, “Scotch Anyone?” — about her family’s find of six intact MacGregor’s Perfection scotch whiskey bottles at the bottom of Lake Washington off of Arrowhead Point.
We often discussed and critiqued each other’s writings. One day, I couldn’t wait to get her expert opinion on a hot-off-the-press masterpiece I’d concocted.
“It wasn’t your best work. I just didn’t get it,” she said.
With dripping pen and deflated ego, I began a painstaking re-write.
But, alas, I got equal revenge when she produced “Feline Savvy” about how intelligent her cat, Snuggles, was, and shot back, “I don’t know why, but this one lacks your usual enthusiasm.”
Louise had an eye disease called macular degeneration, severely affecting her sight, and was also hard of hearing. But did that stop her? Her words raced in her head like well-trained Olympiads running around the track, all of whom crossed the finish line at the same time and tumbled out onto the computer keyboard. She’d press the send button, and I’d receive her essay with each letter in 1-inch-high bold print.
“Edit if you wish!” she exclaimed.
There was nothing to edit — ever! I merely reduced the print size, and, voila!, onto the editor the story flew.
One time, we decided to collaborate on an article called “Oh Rats!” I wrote the sidebar of tips on how to keep rats out of your house, and Louise wrote the details of the story about catching a rat under a glass bowl in her kitchen. This joint effort was deemed too disgusting for our favorite editor of Northwest Prime Time, and to this day, remains unpublished.
Louise also wrote and recently published her memoirs, producing an elegant hard-covered book titled, “Forget Me Not — A Memoir by Louise R. Smith.”
Friends can be quirky. Louise was no exception. She was a stickler for time and lived by the clock. It didn’t sit well if I’d arrive at her house a minute before our agreed-upon time for lunch. Once, seeing I’d be 10 minutes early, I waited until high noon in a downtown Kenmore parking lot before venturing to her home.
And, you’d never want to phone her during a Mariners, Seahawks or Husky game as she was their No. 1 fan, an armchair coach who hung on every play. To celebrate her 90th birthday, her family treated her to a game at Safeco Field, with the giant reader board flashing her name for 40,000 enthusiastic fans to see, “Happy 90th Birthday, Louise Smith!”
On Jan. 17, 2009, at exactly 5 a.m., Louise Smith, surrounded by her loving daughters, Susan and Ann, passed away at 95 ½ years old.
She set the gold standard for being a friend.
Suzanne G. Beyer is a Bothell resident.