Insurmountable riches: Man made up in friends what he lacked in money
What he didn’t have in material goods, 81-year-old George Smedley had in friends.
For about 15 years, the man with no permanent address would wander around Carson City, leaving in his wake a long list of friends who openly admit they loved “the good old guy.”
About 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, on a darkened stretch of road and only a block from his destination, Smedley’s ever-worsening eyesight led him into the path of a car that struck him on Stewart Street. He died at the scene, police said.
News of Smedley’s death shocked his friends throughout Carson City.
“George didn’t have any family in town, but he did,” said a tearful Carla Vaughn on Wednesday. Vaughn, 32, a cocktail waitress at Carson Station Casino, said she last saw Smedley on Tuesday night at the casino.
As she left, she slipped him a $20 bill and casino coupons. Before he left the casino at 8:15 p.m., Smedley used the coupons to buy a hamburger and french fries.
The food, in a generic paper bag and still uneaten, was found near his body.
“Everyone is devastated,” Vaughn said of her co-workers at the casino. “Everybody loved George. He was definitely one of a kind.”
Not much is known about Smedley’s past, but he has three children who live in California.
Some winters, Smedley, who told people he “chose” to live on the streets, would stay with a daughter who lives near Palm Springs, said June Joplin, owner of Comma Coffee.
Joplin, so heartbroken by the word of Smedley’s death, closed her shop early Wednesday.
“It’s just so sad to think of him dying alone with no one around him that loves him,” she said through tears. “He was just a sweet guy. It didn’t seem important why he was on the streets; he just was.”
Smedley stayed with Joplin and her children for a few months last winter. She fixed him a room in the garage and he had access to the house for use of the bathroom and to watch television.
“He considered us his family. And we were,” she said. “My employees loved him.”
When they heard the news, Joplin’s youngest daughter Hannah Hartman, 7, and her friend Cristol Greer, 9, wrote a note to Smedley which they planned to send up in a purple balloon.
“Dear George, You were a nice, loving, gentle man. I hope you have a Merry Christmas in heaven. P.S. You have a home in our hearts.”
Steve Gress, 38, a Carson Station employee, had taken Smedley in last month. The two shared Gress’ studio apartment on Roop Street.
Gress had the horrible task of saying aloud what he’d only thought after reading Wednesday morning’s Appeal story on the accident. Smedley’s name was withheld until the coroner could notify his family, but Gress, who works the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, had worried all night about him and had a sinking feeling the unnamed victim was Smedley.
“I see this story on the front page about a pedestrian being killed near the fire department and something right there told me.”
Gress said he immediately called his apartment, speaking into the answering machine and asking Smedley to pick up the phone. But no one did.
Later he learned the truth.
“My heart broke,” he said.
Gress said he hopes to organize a fund-raiser to help Smedley’s family with the cost of burial.
“A lot of people knew George and a lot of people would help,” he said. “He was a really good old guy. If you knew him you couldn’t help but like him.”