Stan Smith, 1944-2011

Stan, one of our stalwarts, died in July 2013. 

A top bloke with a great sense of humour, an engaging personality with a cheeky smile; an avid tramper who missed few chances to get his boots on and head into the hills; good company and fond of his girls, his home and his garden; never keen on having his own photo taken, but a great photographer who showed the beauty of the areas he tramped in; a true gentleman and a reliable friend to many.

That’s how people remember Stan Smith, and more than one mention his ‘cheeky little grin’.

Stan was born in Carterton, the only child of Ted and Vi Smith. He grew up on the family farm at the top of Dalefield Road and attended Dalefield School and Carterton District High. Young Stan played hockey (like every Dalefield kid) and was a Scout. His other interests included fishing and hunting. His early jobs in Carterton included a spell at Gordon Udy’s bike repair shop and as bicycle delivery boy for Knutson’s grocery store. Biking home from work could be tough into a nor’wester.

When he got into motor bikes, Stan was particular about looking after his BSA Bantam 125 and later his BSA B31 350 cc. Later he spent much time servicing and polishing his first car, a grey Austin 10.

Stan’s 51 year career in the automotive industry was a closed book to most SWTC members. He started at Fred Hill Motors, the Carterton GM dealer, in 1962. In 1980 the firm became Wagg & Harcombe, and when ‘Waggs’ closed its Carterton branch Stan’s spare parts job shifted to Masterton. Those who worked with him say his knowledge of GM components—even for old Bedfords and Vauxhalls—was second to none. At work as in the tramping club, Stan showed an interest in his colleagues and their families, and his love and knowledge of gardening rubbed off on many of them.

His bereaved employers posted this on Stan’s tribute page:

Stan had worked for our company for over 50 years and was the icon of our parts department, his knowledge base was exemplary and his readiness to help untiring. He met all challenges head on, sometimes with more bluster than bluff, but his good humour was never far away and his ready wit and cheeky smile will be sorely missed by our staff and his many clients. Stan was a generous man who loved the simple things in life, his family, his home, his garden, his friends. He enjoyed sharing produce from his garden with us and he enjoyed sharing a beer with the boys after work on a Friday night. He did this on the Friday night before his operation and none of us could have imagined that that would be the last time that he would sup with the team. 

Another tribute sums up Stan in his blue dust-coat at Wagg & Harcombe: Thanks for the tomatoes mate, and I promise to always buy genuine parts. His garden was a showpiece, and his enthusiasm for it immense.

Encouraged by a neighbour, Stan joined the tramping club in 1989.  Barry Kempton says, ‘He often said he wished he had gotten into tramping earlier, but he certainly caught up on lost time enjoying almost weekly excursions with the SWTC as well as annual pilgrimages to various places in both North and South Islands.’ (Before he joined us in his mid-40s, Stan had never been to the South Island). Janet Corlett, who joined at the same time, says:

Through good times and challenging times he’s been like a big brother to me. My nephews and grandchildren remember camps when he’d have the kids around him, fascinated at the popping corn in his billy. My nephews, now in their early twenties, and my teenage grandchildren still refer to Stan as the Popcorn Man. 

Carol Major first met Stan more recently:

Stan was the first person I met at my first club night. My memory of him on that occasion remains vivid. He went out of his way to introduce me to people, note my email address for club communications, ensure that I had a list of recommended gear, and later, check that I was receiving club email. His was the face of SWTC that convinced me that I had come across a friendly and welcoming club.

We must now accept being on tramps without Stan. The Bowies write:

For over 20 years we’ve shared with you our tramping trips and those hard slogs to the top with many great moments: views from Wairarapa hills and other peaks, the colour of West Coast rivers, our beautiful bush; you photographed them all. You were caring, ready to help, a great trip leader, tail-end Charlie and carrier of first aid equipment.

Curiously, no mention was made at Stan’s funeral of the mother of Lynley, Shelley and Haley. After Stan’s long-ago parting with her—and probably long before we knew him—he achieved a kind of masculine self-sufficiency and equilibrium that made lesser males feel inadequate. Cooking, house-cleaning, laundry, gardening: Stan did all without seeming flustered, while holding down his job and tramping nearly every Saturday—as hundreds of trip reports testify. He was so regular you’d be surprised at any rare absence, as we were on a trip at Paekakariki in late June. Perhaps the niggling problem that had he’d accepted stoically for 18 months was too much for him that Saturday. Two days later he was in hospital.

During our club’s more than 30 years we have lost other members, but most faded away without leaving such a hole as the one Stan’s abrupt departure has made in our lives. Almost until his unheralded and unwanted end, a full-bodied Stan was tramping among us. In time we shall follow him, and it is not given to us to know what we shall find on the other side.

But Stan will be content there with some steel shelving; some Holden and Suzuki parts; some manuals on microfiche; a computer; a bush track with ferns, mosses and fungi and a stream; a camera; and somewhere to pause with friends for smoko and to be contented with his lot.

Excepting the automotive bit, that would do most of us pretty well. We’ll see you there, Stan.

Compiled from contributions by Clive Baxter; Gary Bishop; Kay & David Bowie; Janet Corlett; Rodney, Rebecca & Jack Craig; Cole Johnson; Barry Kempton; Carol Major; Rosie & Ian Montgomerie; John Rhodes and Angela & Nigel Skeet.