Michael Smith wasn’t movie-star famous, but his career as a teacher and coach made him so recognizable on the North Shore that former students spotted him frequently and called out, ‘Mr. Smith!’
His widow, Nancy Smith, says he was even recognized once on the Tube in London, England.
“It was a couple of girls from the women’s rugby team,” she said, laughing. “We’d never been in England before.”
Smith, 90, found joy in everything and everyone from rugby to theatre and teammates to choirmates.
He died April 2 after contracting COVID-19 at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver.
Smith was born in Vancouver and attended Kitsilano Secondary School, excelling academically, in musical theatre and sports.
He went on to the University of British Columbia where he competed in rugby, football and swimming and spent his summers working overseas on a whaling ship.
His daughter, Megan Frederick, says her questions about the stormy seas off Japan’s coast were usually steered toward Smith’s softball team at the whaling station.
“Nobody could beat them,” Frederick said. “I never really did hear much about whaling.”
In 1956, Smith married Marlene Wright, had three children and became a teacher, coach and vice-principal in West Vancouver, living up to his strict-but-fair reputation in the classroom and living room.
“He ran the house like a coach and they called him the General,” Frederick said.
“He’d sign his cards to my mom, ‘Love, the General.'”
Mike and Marlene, who passed away in 1991, made their home a gathering place for friends before and after sports tournaments and concerts.