Real-estate investor, father, husband, independent thinker. Born May 7, 1916, in Hastings, Ont. Died Aug. 8, 2011, in London, Ont., of pneumonia, aged 95.
“I've never worked a day in my life; my life has always been fun.” These words of wisdom, all apparently true, were typical of Stewart Smith’s way of thinking and living.
Born at home in Hastings, Ont., in 1916, Stewart was one of four children of Abigail and Alexander Smith. Stewart was always proud of his Grade 13 education. He would have liked to continue his schooling, but there was no money for this during the Depression. He described the situation thus: “We weren’t a poor family – we just didn’t have any money.” They had a home, good food – his father was a grocer – and that was enough.
Stewart hitchhiked to Ontario’s Tillsonburg area a few times in the 1930s to pick tobacco, and he worked briefly at Canadian General Electric in the 1940s. But other than these jobs from 60 or 70 years ago, it did seem as though he never worked a day in his life.
Stewart started investing in real estate in the 1940s, and always had a few rental properties on the go. He regretfully sold his favourite sixplex, his last investment property, when he was 90. He often said you can't make money working for a living.
Stewart married his first wife, Lenore Tinker, in 1942. They had four daughters, one son and 22 years of marriage before divorcing in the 1960s. He married his second wife, Sylvia, in 1980, when he was 64. Expecting 10 or 15 years together, they had been married 30 years when Stewart died.
Stewart lived in London, Ont., from the late 1940s until his recent death. He travelled a lot during the last half of his life, having both time and money for leisure. He visited Africa, Asia and Europe as well as making frequent trips to Mexico, the Caribbean and many parts of Canada.
A man of many hobbies and interests, Stewart loved vegetable gardening, collecting antiques and green technologies. For many years he enjoyed having a windmill power the light bulb in his home office.
The last five years of Stewart’s life were spent in a nursing home. Although he was not usually a complainer and described himself as a positive thinker, he did say he resented living in the nursing home among all the old people.
When asked the secret to a long life, he advised: Don’t worry, always have enough money, and smoke a daily pipe or cigar. He lived this way until the end of his life. When Stewart talked about dying, he said that what matters when you die has already happened. Any spirit you have is part of your children and their children. He leaves eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
One last bit of Stewart’s wisdom: “Mainly the meaning of life is to enjoy it. Success without happiness is empty. I'm always smiling because I am always happy.”
By Stephanie Smith, Stewart’s daughter.