Stuart Balkam Smith, age 86, passed away peacefully on August 4, 2022.
In his own words: I was born January 3, 1936, in Duluth, Minnesota in the Jewish ward of a Catholic hospital to good Presbyterian parents, Virginia Louise Valiquet and Orvis Brayton Smith. Outside it was 18 degrees below zero with 30-foot drifts. My mother often altered this to 30 degrees below zero with 18-foot drifts. I agreed with whoever was holding me. We moved to Eau Claire where I attended the campus school of State Teachers College. My father gave up insurance for full-time church work, so we moved to Waukesha. I attended Waukesha High School where I was active in basketball, band/ orchestra, choir/madrigals, and drama club. I was far too shy to be active with girls. I attended Lake Forest College (IL) on a basketball scholarship. A serious back injury ended any dreams of the NBA, hobbling me in casts and corsets for the next six months. During rehab, I audited courses at Carroll College, becoming a full-time student in December of 1954 to study history. I spent more time in music and drama. I joined the national drama and fraternities, served on boards of the Carroll Student Union, Student Christian Association, and played a lot of sheepshead. I graduated in June of 1957, or so I thought. With family gathered around, I was dutifully handed a blank diploma. It seems I was short a minor. I could have saved the robe rental. I finished with three minors at Indiana University/South Bend. The summers I worked as a delivery driver, a dishwasher/bellboy on the Milwaukee Clipper car ferry, and as a deckhand on a Great Lakes freighter. Most notable was the summer I was in New York City peddling Cepacol mouthwash to Manhattan drug stores and dentists.
After the graduation fiasco, we moved to South Bend, IN, where O.B. joined the staff of a Presbyterian Church. We lived on the cheap at the YMCA with $1.39 breakfasts of one egg, slice of bacon, toast and coffee. I walked lines for the gas company looking for leaks. I also worked at the headquarters of Studebaker and Mercedes-Benz. I joined South Bend Civic Music Theatre. I met the love of my life, Beverly Weaver, a real beauty. She was Miss Elkhart twice. She was far too focused on dreams of performing with the Pasadena (California) Playhouse to notice me.
Bev went west and I went east to Delaware to become a DuPont Winterthur Fellow…a full-time master’s program in Early American Culture and Decorative Arts. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I spent the summer thinking Ph.D. in art history until I met Bev again, more attractive than ever. She was fresh from the Pasadena Playhouse and one year touring the country with the Bishop’s Company. We were both cast in “Sorry, Wrong Number”. She was the bed-ridden victim and I her murderer. That was our courtship, a nightly knifing. Twelve days later we were engaged. I was working in South Bend advertising for a furniture store, and performing in “Carousel”. Bev was teaching in Elkhart, Indiana. We were married in June of 1961 at the First Brethren Church in Elkhart. The minister proclaimed, “You may salute your bride.” As a member of the Naval Reserve, I all but snapped to attention and said, “request permission to come on board, sir”, only to be reminded to “kiss” the bride. I’ve never needed reminding since. Our honeymoon started in Saugatuck, Michigan and proceeded quite thriftily up and around Lake Michigan, We lunched on wedding cake and A&W root beer. Even so, our cash ran out and we headed to my folks’ house in Green Bay. I became a copywriter and Bev an English teacher at Green Bay West High School.
In 1971, I went solo as Ad/Smith, Inc., a full-service advertising agency for the next 50 years with both daughters, Valerie and Theresa eventually joining the firm to ease me into retirement. I joined the Navy in 1961 and received an early discharge in 1963 for medical reasons; I couldn’t breathe through my nose. The choice was major nasal surgery or an honorable discharge. I said no to the nose and opted for home. We moved into a trailer in Elkhart (a trailer without head room) commuting to my advertising job in South Bend. Next came a very small bungalow ($50 a month rent) next to Goshen College where Bev finished her degree. Next choice: do we join Bev’s theatre company or join my parents in Green Bay to start again? Green Bay it was. It was first an apartment then a house south of De Pere on a hill overlooking the beautiful Fox River where we lived for the next 50 years before swapping its valuable river frontage in 2012 for our dream condo at Remington Ridge in Ledgeview.
Starting in 1945 I was on some stage. From age eight when I played one of Peter Rabbit’s friends hiding under a fifth grade cabbage through 30 years as Ebeneezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”. My list included high school, college, community and music theatres, opera, liturgical and repertory theatre, storytelling, radio and television. Bev and I spent 13 years traveling the Upper Midwest as Chancel Players, then Interact - Theatre of Concern. I spent 12 years as Managing Director of Evergreen Theatre. Bev and I spent 20 years as directors of our own Heritage Players. St. Norbert College’s Summer Music theatre favorite roles include Henry Higgins (“My Fair Lady”), Don Quixote (“Man of La Mancha”, and Fagin (“Oliver”). But my most favorite roles were anything performed with Bev.
I was also the tall bass in the back row with First United Methodist Church Sanctuary Choir, soloist with the Navy’s Blue Jackets, and for decades, the narrator/host with the Green Bay Civic Symphony.
Our travels took us to such exotic locales as the Canary Islands, Morocco, Egypt, the Green Islands, London/Paris with granddaughter, Erin and Rome/Florence/Venice with our grandson, Sean. Hawaii, then Vienna/Salzburg/Munich by train with Earl and Peg Cummings, Cornwall, the England of Charles Dickens, Alaska, Tortola, Belize, the Stratford Festivals in Ontario, and The Rushes in Door County.
After a mission trip to Kenya through our church, I co-founded KenyaHelp, a non-profit organization to provide scholarships for academically deserving Kenyan students to receive a high school education. wwwkenyahelp.org
Among my undeniable passions are my family, milk chocolate, volleyball, Cheetos, competitive race walking, storytelling, Les Miz, Bev’s scalloped potatoes and ham and Friday breakfasts at Panera.
I am grateful to all who shared their lives with me. I must single out a few who altered my life in extraordinary ways: Dudley Birder, who showed me the stage; Marshall Moss, my friend of 60 years, who showed me how to sing; Mary Eisenreich, my favorite accompanist; Dave Zochert’s omelets; Rev. Grace Imathiu, and Bishop Don Ott, who made a believer out of me.
What few honors I’ve received include the God & Country Award from the Boy Scouts, the American Spirit Medal from the U.S. Navy, a winner’s trophy for the Fox Cities Half-Marathon and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Carroll College in 1972. It was Carroll’s first class of honored alums and I was to share the stage with legendary Alfred Lunt. You can’t do better than that, now can you?
I am survived by Beverly, my truly exceptional wife of 61 years whose love sustained me every moment of every day. The same can be said for our daughters Valerie Loughney (Dan), Green Bay; Theresa Moser (Tom), Menasha; grandchildren, Erin and Sean Loughney; my brothers, Steve Smith (Jackie), Green Valley, AZ, and Phil Smith (fiance Joanna Hagen), Sun City, AZ; nephews David Smith, Tucson, AZ; Greg Smith (Karen), Portland, OR; Matthew Smith (Heather), Phoenix, AZ; Jonathan Smith (Corinne), Blowing Rock, NC, and Jyoti Smith (Maya), Goodyear, AZ.
The family would like to thank the team at Unity Hospice in De Pere for the care they gave Stuart.
A celebration of Stu's life will be held at Newcomer-Green Bay Chapel (340 S. Monroe Ave., Green Bay, WI), Thursday, September 8, 2022 from 5 to 7 PM. Celebration will continue at First United Methodist Church (501 Howe St., Green Bay, WI), Friday, September 9, 2022 from 12 to 2 PM. A memorial service will follow at 2 PM.