Hugh Joseph Smith, Jr.

June 23,1921 - July 23, 2015

Hugh Joseph Smith, Jr. passed on from this world at 4:08pm on July 23, 2015, exactly one month after his 94th birthday. He was born to Hugh and Anne Smith in Pittsburgh, PA June 23, 1921 at 2 a.m. in the middle of a lightning storm. So began his very long and interesting life! His family split its time between Pittsburgh and ‘out west’ because his mother’s asthma kept driving them back to better climates for her health. Settling eventually near Scottsdale, the Smiths homesteaded 640 acres in Paradise Valley, now part of the Fountain Hills community. They built and operated a dude ranch until his father’s financial problems forced a sale on the courthouse steps. Hugh attended Phoenix High School graduating in 1939 and enrolled at the University of Arizona in Tucson. December 7, 1941 changed Hugh’s path drastically. He finished his semester and joined the Navy in the summer of 1942, an odd choice for a guy who never liked water over his head! He wanted to become a doctor, so took much medical training and became a member of the hospital corps, a medic, and was assigned to a mobile hospital in Sydney, Australia. When the war was over Hugh completed his education at UC Berkeley, earning a BS in Zoology in 1949 and rethinking his career choice. His teaching certificate earned him a position at the elementary school in Chester, CA where he met Ellen, his future wife. Two years later they were married and working in Truckee, CA where his two older daughters, Kim and Jill were born. Hugh wasn’t satisfied just teaching, so the new family moved to the Bay Area where Hugh taught at Fair Oaks Elementary School and volunteered at KQED, an educational television station that eventually created Sesame Street and the like. In television Hugh found one of his passions and an outlet for his extreme creativity. He raised funds to provide the first educational translator on Mt. Diablo, allowing educational programs to be broadcast all over the Bay Area. In 1959 his third daughter, Lisa, was born. Hugh moonlighted in piano bars during the years our family was growing; he loved being the entertainer and the money helped. His work in television was instrumental in finding his next job; he became the Coordinator of Educational Broadcasting for Santa Barbara County. He produced radio and television programming, which was always done ‘live’ because it was well before taping was the norm. As taping began to be used more and more, he developed some contacts within SONY. One of them suggested that he would be ideal for a new position opening up with the State of Nevada as the Director of the Nevada Educational Communications Commission. He got the job and in 1967 the family moved to their home in Carson City, where he lived the rest of his life. Several years after moving to Carson, politics changed and his job ended. He returned to teaching at Markleeville, where he also served as Principal until his retirement. After retirement, Hugh founded a video production company, De’Ja Vu’ Memories on Videotape, which kept him busy until he shut it down in 2003. What needs to be read between these lines is that this man was funny, talented, sensitive, complex and compassionate. He was quite involved with his community, belonging to several service clubs and remaining active until he died. He loved trains, and volunteered weekly at the Railroad Museum until Ellen’s health caused him to quit. He founded the Carson City Public Access TV channel at the mayor’s request. He wrote music and musicals, plays, short stories, and he loved to play music for anyone who would listen. Many of his productions were produced live by Proscenium Players, and a musical ‘Spectacle!’ inaugurated the stage at the then-brand-new Carson City Community Center. Although he wrote music, he never learned to read music well, but if he heard a song, he just played it ‘by ear’. Growing up in his house was always noisy, lots of music and television well into the night. His Hammond Organ and upright piano were set up at right angles to each other so they could be played simultaneously, right hand on the piano and the left on the organ. Hugh loved humor and had a quick wit, using humor and puns at all times. One of his favorite sayings when someone said, “It’s good to see you,” was, “It’s good to be seen!” He will be missed. He is survived by his 3 daughters, Kim Schmidt (Jim), Jill Calkins (Allen), Lisa Maisano (Steve), several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and his dog, Joey. A celebration of life is planned for August 6th, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. at the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City. He would love to see lots of people in purple, his favorite color, and not so many in somber black. The family asks that any donations in his honor be made to the charity of your choice.


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