Geraldine “Geri” Smith, a long-time Canadian Press newscaster whose voice became familiar to listeners across the country during her nearly 35 years with the national wire service, has died. She was 60.
Smith was found dead in her Toronto home on Thursday and was on leave from work at the time of her death.
Rose Kingdon, director of broadcast news at the Canadian Press, said Smith’s smooth, friendly, warm delivery of national newscasts made her one of the company’s most senior and best-respected broadcasters.
“You always knew without hearing her name who was speaking because Geri had her own style when she delivered the news,” Kingdon said in a telephone interview. “She was fun loving. She was usually surrounded by people laughing. She was witty and charming.”
Smith’s illustrious broadcasting career got under way in 1983 with a stint at a radio station in Cambridge, Ont., before she moved to another station in nearby Kitchener. She joined the Canadian Press broadcast team in June 1988.
Retired Canadian Press veteran Malcolm Morrison said he was the audio supervisor when Smith joined the team.
“She’s one of the best newscasters I ever came across,” he said.
“She was a very, very pleasant person to work with … a lot of people liked her a lot.”
Morrison said people who knew Smith were crushed when they learned that she died very suddenly and at such a young age.
“She was somebody that everybody had great respect for, for her professional abilities and just because she was such a pleasant person to work with,” he said.
“She had … a very, very, very good, and at times very biting, sense of humour. I think to be called a weasel by Geri was really kind of high praise.”
Off air, Kingdon said Smith loved taking vacations to Malibu, Calif., with her mother Mary, who survives her.
Kingdon said Smith used to make teasing calls from the beach and would laughingly inform her that she wouldn’t be coming back to work her next shift because she was having too much fun soaking up the sun.
“She established some real connections with people past and present at CP, and they’re gonna miss her terribly,” Kingdon said.
Joy Malbon, one of Smith’s long-time friends and the current Washington Bureau Chief at CTV News, said the two immediately bonded during their shared time at CFTJ radio station in Cambridge. At the time, Smith was the station’s DJ, leaving the newscasting to Malbon.
“I was intimidated by her because she had this fantastic broadcast voice and I’m just a newbie,” Malbon said.
“We kept in touch, and our friendship has lasted a lifetime.”
Malbon said Smith cared deeply about the craft of journalism and had tremendous respect for the listeners who would hear her explain the world in her newscast.
“Geri was a very big personality in that little body, just a firecracker, smart as a whip,” she said. “She loved telling stories to Canadians every day.”
She said Smith was kind to her friends, recalling one occasion when a visiting Smith urged her to make an upgrade to her Washington home.
“She said, ‘We have to get a pool.’ And I go, ‘What do you mean a pool? I have a tiny little deck of concrete.’” Malbon said. “So we marched up to the hardware store and I bought a $9 little pool. And she insisted on getting little rubber duckies. And we spent the afternoon giggling and laughing and splashing our toes in the water.”
Malbon said she last saw Smith in Toronto last summer, when they spent time taking in warm weather on a local patio.
“Even though we didn’t see each other for long periods of time, like when I worked overseas, we would FaceTime, we’d have a laugh, and we’d be right back to the old days of working in small town radio stations in Canada making no money and pooling our quarters to buy a pint at the local pub,” she said.
“I remember Geri being very kind and generous to her friends. But she cared deeply about her profession and the only other thing that mattered to Geri more than radio was her mom and dad. And she loved her cats.”