Thursday, July 15, 2010

He had the freedom of the city and was one of it's proudest boosters!

At 94 years of age, Walter Smith was not only one of Prince Rupert's oldest citizens,  and one who lived in this city almost as many years as its centennial celebrates, but he was indeed one  of the last of its pioneers and builders.

Mr. Smith passed away on Tuesday, news that quickly spread around the community  with memories to be shared around town by the many who knew him, many of whom have had a tale to recount for those that never had the pleasure.

The Northern View had the first word on his passing for the community, featuring a review of some of the highlights of his long and colourful life posted to their website on Wednesday,  followed by this piece for TV 7 News tonight..

However, those were mere thumbnail sketches of a life lived, considering his many accomplishments and honours over the years, it could take entire chapters of the style of the old Phylis Bowman chronicles of this city to best highlight the devotion to his work on the north coast.

He began his efforts to make Prince Rupert better known in 1936 when he founded the Prince Rupert Visitors bureau, a destination for visitors to learn more about the city and for the city to bid those same visitors a bon voyage as they sailed off to Alaska.

In recent times he has made many a trip up to a speakers platform to collect an award or receive an accolade, in 2006 he was named the recipient of the city's ambassador award, that for his enthusiastic promotion and support

A Daily news article from 2008  appearing upon his enshrinement into the Canadian Tourism Hall of Famn, outlined some of his background at the start of his career in the tourism industry and traced his accomplishments and the milestones that he was a witness to as that industry grew in Prince Rupert and along the North coast.

From the creation of Beautiful British Columbia Magazine which no doubt lured many a visitor to the Northwest to the introduction of the BC Ferry Service on the north coast, a transportation option that has changed the dynamic of Prince Rupert, Haida Gwai and the northwest forever.

Over the years that dedication to tourism and Prince Rupert would be recognized often,  Tourism Prince Rupert created an award in his name in 2007, "The Walter Smith Visionary award" to honour those that now follow in his footsteps when it comes to putting Prince Rupert's best face forward for those that stop in for a visit.

Still offering advice into his nineties, he counselled the community on what was required in our tourism industry, with some thoughts in 2008, reminding his audience that a good portion of our visitors are elderly and not inclined into long walks into the hinterlands,  expressing concern for the shopping district and the need to  address the many issues facing it.

In January of 2009 Mr. Smith shared his memories of his time in the tourism industry with the Chamber of Commerce as they commemorated their annual  awards for that year,  a former president of the Chamber he recounted the growth not only of the tourist sector but of the chamber and community.

Later that year, in December, he would receive perhaps the ultimate of honours that a city can offer up when he was awarded the status of Freedom of the city, only the tenth Rupertite to be so honoured.  A night in city council chambers where all were in agreement that when it came to having a sense of what was needed and how to develop it, Mr. Smith was indeed a visionary of his times.

Six months have passed since that final accolade, perhaps the most fitting of tributes to a man that gave much to his community over his 94 years and will be missed by all of those to whom he offered advice or led by example.

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