In Memoriam, William O. Smith Jr. – July 2015

In Memoriam

William O. Smith Jr.William O. Smith Jr. and his daughter Gail.

William O. Smith Jr. passed away peacefully at his home in West Dennis, Massachusetts, on June 1, 2015 at the age of 88. His wife, Mary, and his daughter Gail were with him. Smith was a Certified Master Watchmaker and Clockmaker. He began his training at the age of 12 at the Western Pennsylvania Horological Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, founded by his father in 1936. In 1966, he joined the faculty of the University of Illinois to participate in a Horological and Micro-Precision Research Project. Subsequently, Smith established a Micro-Precision Technology program at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois, where he taught until his retirement in 1984. In 1987, Smith founded Smith’s Time Shop, in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts, now located in West Dennis.
    Smith was a past president of The Watchmaker’s Association of Pennsylvania and a Director and Fellow of The American Watchmaker’s Institute. Smith is author of many technical books including Twenty-First Century Watchmaking, Hamilton Electric Watch Repair Manual, and 28 volumes on chronographs and complicated watches.
    Smith enlisted in the Navy during WWII where he served in the Farragut Unit in Washington D.C., and later as head watchmaker at Ship’s Service in Norfolk, Virginia.
    He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Mary (Tomko) Smith; by his children, William O., III and his wife Karen; Mark A. and his wife Sandy; Kent R. and his wife Christine; Lynn M. Marlow and her husband Thomas (Pete); Gail M. Smith; Jill L. Conway and her husband Bob; and Sherri A. Smith; 12 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren.
    Funeral services were held on June 8 in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts, and burial followed at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, Massachusetts.  

Here are some remembrances of Bill Smith from some of his friends and colleagues at AWCI.

In 1995, the Massachusetts Watchmakers Clockmakers Association held a large reception for Henry B. Fried. Bill and Mary Smith were among the 100 or so people who attended that reception to honor Henry that evening. Henry remarked to those of us sitting at his table that there was another person in the room who deserved to be honored even more than he did. That person was William O. Smith Jr.

~Jack Kurdzionak, CW21, FAWCI

Bill Smith with Henry Fried in 1995 at an event honoring Henry Fried.
Bill and Mary Smith were wonderful people. I had the pleasure of working with them at AWI in the early 90s. I have used his incredibly well-illustrated chronograph series over the years. He graciously autographed several of his books for me. Mr. Smith will be missed.

~Robert Porter, CMW

My first encounter with Bill’s work was reading his description of vector physics of various watch parts (written in the late 1970s for AJH) and how and why the engineering designs functioned as they did. The thing that drew me in the most was his readability. He was the first horological writer I had encountered that I could follow in my head. As I read his descriptions, which not only read well but progressed logically, I got it the first time without going back again to pick up what didn’t fit. That is a special talent in writing that few authors possess. It immediately gave me a special respect for this man whom, at this point, I had never met.
    Several years later (by this time I had taught several classes for AWCI) while at an AWCI annual meeting, I bought a copy of Bill’s latest book, Twenty-First Century Watchmaking, with the intention of having him sign my copy. To my surprise, he wrote the inscription: “To my esteemed colleague, warmest regards, Bill Smith.” I was shocked. This was the first time I had met him, and I had no idea how he even knew who I was! When I asked him how he knew me, he told me that his “eyes in the field had eavesdropped on my classes and the reports were excellent!” It took me weeks to get over the compliment! Coming from this man who had a world-renowned reputation as an instructor, watchmaker, and professional was more than a compliment. It was a directive to raise my skill level to its highest and to share everything I knew with others. I think that was what strengthened my resolve as a practicing professional clockmaker.
    Sometime later, Bill and I joined our efforts in developing a more well-rounded education program for AWCI and their (at that time) Academy. We worked out several new items to use within the program frame that would answer some of the stated needs from industry that had been missing. Soon after that experience, I became Education Committee Chairman and redirected AWCI’s entire education efforts and certification programs. But as I worked on those items, I would have constant contact with Bill and get his opinion. Since he had dealt with the international community as well as the US watch community for so long, I felt he understood and knew what was needed. It was never a blind following, as Bill was too good of a teacher and debater to just give opinions. We argued many times, but even if I disagreed with him or his views on something, I could never get mad at him. He was just too kind of a person to let anything but intelligence and honesty prevail.
    He was a strong family man, and I got to see how he raised several of his kids—Bill and Gail, in particular. The kids I met seemed to share the same gentleness that Bill had. His wife, Mary, was no slouch here either. As Bill’s editor, she kept him in line as he worked.  
    In the end analysis of what we leave this world when we pass, all we can hope to do is leave it with some knowledge of what we hold to be the best, not only for ourselves, but for the future. We evaluate what we leave by looking at what the future does with what we offered. In my case, I garnered more than a comment in a book. I garnered a way of practicing my professional skills and a need to do them at the highest level; an honest desire to share what I have been given (skills, knowledge, and dispositions) by Bill and so many others; and a need to try to help those who share these desires and want to make our profession vibrant and productive. I will always miss the person, but I will never be without his contributions to my success.

~Jerry Faier, CMC21, FAWCI