In Memory

Herbert (Bart) Smith

Smith, Herbert O., 80, passed away Monday, August 1, 2016. Born in Bremerton, WA he was the son of the late Richard D. and the late Kathryn (Winkel) Smith.

He was a US Army veteran of the Korean Conflict. An English Professor for the University of Maryland he lived and worked in Germany, Belgium and Holland. A fan of the arts, he enjoyed the opera, theater, film and poetry.

Mr. Smith is survived by his daughter, Jennifer E. Becker of Arizona; sister, Kathryn Meseck of Warren; brother, Dr. Peter S. Smith and his wife Heidi Schiess of Barrington; and four grandsons, Dakota, Zac, John and James.

A graveside service will be held on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at 10 AM in Swan Point Cemetery, 585 Blackstone Blvd., Providence, RI.

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09/14/17 05:56 AM #1    

John Nolan

Bart Smith taught for UMUC for many years, in Bremerhaven, later in Holland and eventually at SHAPE, where he was a well known member of the community in the 1990's. He was a a man of tremendous intellectual depth and great culture. He was trained as an actor in Britain in the late 1950's, a background he used to great effect in his beloved Shakespeare classes. Bart was a great friend and in many ways a mentor to me between 1994 and 1999. Recognizing the devastated product of a failed marriage- an experience he had been through himself-he took me under his wing and helped me heal. I can't even begin to list the number of memories ranging from walking the battlefield of Agincourt discussing Henry V to rushing to the hospital after he had been struck by a car walking to teach at SHAPE in the fog, to the night at an outdoor cafe in Brussels when Japanese tourists began snapping pictures of Bart in his cape and long scarf under the assumption he was a famous Belgian philosopher! ( Well he did look the part!) He loved the theatre and films, especially appreciating Orson Welles, though he often jeered at his former classmate Richard Harris. He loved literature, Thomas Mann's Death in Venice was, predictably perhaps, his favorite work. He enjoyed the NFL (49's fan, sadly). He appreciated fine wine. He was a connoisseur of fine (especially French) dining, and had the girth to prove it. He adored (indeed lived for) Opera, and loved a Hungarian opera singer, though she in the end broke his heart. Bart always believed he was a man out of his time, and hearkened back the fifties with fondness. His dismay at the modern world was profound, as was his disdain for administration ( except perhaps for Wally Knoche). Most important of all, Bart loved teaching, and introducing his students to his idea of culture, and went to great lengths for them. I last heard from Bart in 2008, and was saddened when the letters stopped coming- he always wrote such beautiful letters. I had assumed that the cancer he battled so hard in Belgium, and which prompted his retirement, had eventually come back.  Over the years since, I have numerous times tried to find him, and was much surprised (because of how recent it was) and saddened to find his obituary today. 

09/14/17 01:29 PM #2    

Richard Schumaker

I was saddened this morning when I saw the "In Memory" notice about my friend Herbert Smith.  I had lost track of him some time ago but thought of him often, easily remembering with great fondness our shared experiences at Hahn AB (BRD), Kröv/Mosel, Bremerhaven, and various other European cities.

As though it were yesterday, I remember meeting Bart Smith. 

It was a rainy, depressing Monday morning at "Hahn on the Hill" and the ESO, Mike Koester, approached me in the Hahn Ed Center.  "Your new wingman is here and says he knows you.  Bart...Bart Smith..."  Dr. Speckhard, the UMUC English coordinator had phoned me a few days earlier--it must have been term II--and asked me to give Herbert Smith a hand as he arrived to teach English.  I was teaching a "trick" English 291 course that semester---a good deal for the students, for they could either attend the 8am or 6pm session--and was relaxing after the early class.

Courtesy of Mike, we had a comfortable "Maryland" office at Hahn with coffee maker, fridge, academic journals, typewriters, and used paperbacks.   A little sleepy from the early class, I was dozing when Bart Smith walked in.  "You're Richard, from Paris?"

In that small room littered with PMLAs and beat-up Faulkner novels, Bart and I settled in for a two-hour conversation.  He had lived in Paris with his family during the heady NATO days of US bases in Paris.  In our first conversation, he shared his immense personal culture.  He knew the entire existentialist tradition and had visited many of the places described in the Sartrean novels. He saw himself as a sort of Mathieu character.   In those days, I carried the first volume of the Roads to Freedom trilogy everywhere, so Bart and I must have discussed the characters in "L'Age de raison" for an hour.  He knew Kafka well and had just read Max Brod's biography.  Bart was generous and sensitive and made sure to bring a gift for me with him, the Norton edition of "The Heart of Darkness," which was a nice gift.

In those days, Hahn was in the midst of the Reagan Cold War frenzy:  it was the first European base to get the new F-16s; a massive building and renewal effort was seen everywhere; many satellite bases were sprouting up:  an AF intelligence station was growing; Ford Airspace was coming in with a one-of-a kind project; down the road from Hahn a huge NATO weapons storage facility was growing.  The officers club had just suffered a terrorist attack and the base was beginning to be surrounded by German peace movement demonstrations.  It was noisy and demonic.  From the Hahn ed-center one could see the German peace demonstrators and hear a little of their chants sometimes.

For Maryland English instructors, the military build-up and political controversy was a dream come true.  The newly arrived military members, especially the 6911th intel students, desperately needed classes and our classes were full and often split. One of the new Heidelberg administrators, John Floyd, was driving his car around base with a large peace symbol on it.   Bart had worried about getting sufficient classes; suddenly, he would regularly be teaching three at a time.  On that first morning, I took him to a few landlords and hotel owners that I knew hoping to find a place for him to live.

We found a small, garret room across from the main base that Bart, who didn't drive, adored the moment he saw it.  "Kafka would love a room like this," was his comment as he signed the contract.  The landlord, a well-known German man in the Hahn community, smiled, seeing that he would have a new Maryland prof to talk to.

I saw Bart almost every day for that whole academic year.  My students quoted him and read his favorite books.  I always smiled when I walked into a class and saw students reading "The Castle" or "The Trial."  I knew who their English prof had been. 

Bart moved from Hahn after a while to be with his new German girlfriend in Bremerhaven.  I visited them many times and enjoyed meals at their hotel, around Bremerhaven, and going to the Bremerhaven opera with him and his family.  I met his sister, an opera singer and teacher of great charm and beauty, and one point and went to see "Otello" with them.

Bart was a great friend and made the trip to rural Hahn as often as he could to see me.  He seemed very happy with his girlfriend and kids in Bremerhaven.

Later in the Reagan administration, it became harder for me to see Bart Smith:  I was teaching so many classes at Hahn, Bitburg, and Spangdahlem, as well as traveling all over Europe to teach Monika Zwink's  6sh open university classes, so I had little time for any social life.  The Cold War was rapidly moving towards real war; the building frenzy continued until the closing of Hahn.  During this time, as my two sons were born, I heard of Bart mostly through our mutual friend, John Nolan.  Memory and care are strong, however, and all my shared experience with the intelligent, knowledgeable, and very kind Herbert Smith remain as vibrant as though they occurred yesterday, not over thirty years ago.

09/15/17 09:23 AM #3    

James A. "Jim" Moss

Unfortunately, I did not know Bart near as well as did my good friends John and Richard--not  nearly well enough to write with such eloquence and feeling as did these two.  So I say, excellent job my friends and hope that some day I may get such tribute from my friends (should they have the good fortune to outlive me).

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