Harry Smith

December 01, 2012|By JANET HEIM |
  • Harry and Carolyn Smith pose for this picture taken at a family wedding in 2000.
Submitted photo

Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Harry V. Smith, who died Nov. 15 at the age of 76. His obituary was published in the Nov. 16 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Harry Smith was a larger-than-life figure, both in physical presence and personality. He had a strong work ethic, stemming in part from a poor childhood, that he instilled in his three children.

“There were people in his life that took an interest in him. They made up for what he didn’t have at home,” daughter Sabrina Smith said.

The tragic death of his father when Harry was a senior in high school made him determined that his children would have a strong father figure.


Carolyn Key went on a blind date with Harry her senior year of high school and married him three months later, in part because she thought he would be a good father.

When “another guy” asked Carolyn who her dream guy was, she said at least 6 foot 2, two to four years older than she, with blue eyes.

“Harry fit the bill. But he liked children. That was the big thing,” said Carolyn, who is four years younger.

Their three children — Steven Smith of Jacksonville, Fla., Sabrina Smith of Arlington, Va., and Amy Farmer of Hagerstown — couldn’t agree more. There also are three grandchildren.

“He was a great dad,” Amy said. “Dad didn’t go to college and he wasn’t rich. He gave you what he could.

He didn’t have to be a man of stature to make a difference. He always knew what the need was. He always had an insight about people.”

“There are so many H.V. stories. Things just kind of happened to him,” Steven said, referring to his father’s name, Harry Victor.

When it came to naming their firstborn, Carolyn chose Steven Victor. Steven said his father was the only one who referred to him as “Stevie,” although he called him Steven in person.

“I’ll miss that,” Steven said.

Through Harry’s 31-year career with Maryland State Police, his officiating at high school and college basketball and softball games, and his community involvement, he was known far and wide.

More than 400 people attended Harry’s viewing and 125 were at his funeral, where all of the children and grandchildren spoke, read or sang. Harry liked “pomp and circumstance,” and would have enjoyed the police escort to his military burial site at Rocky Gap, his daughters said.

That network wasn’t always appreciated by his children.

“When I had my first slow dance in sixth grade, he already knew by the time I got home,” Sabrina said.

Harry often had been told during his childhood that he wouldn’t amount to anything and struggled throughout his life to overcome those feelings. He worked hard for everything he had, and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

“He said he wasn’t a smart man, which was a lie, but said he had his wits about him,” Sabrina said.
Harry began his six-month training at the police academy in January 1959 when Steven was about 6 months old. His weekend leaves were hindered by his inability to type because he had to stay and practice, Carolyn said.

While Harry was working as a road trooper, security duty at Fort Ritchie, Camp David and the Underground Pentagon, as a criminal investigator and at the Department of Corrections, Carolyn kept the homefront in order.

“I gave him to the Lord and said, ‘I’ll stay home and take care of the kids. I can’t worry about it,’” Carolyn said of the danger with Harry’s job.

His favorite job was criminal investigations.

“He could find evidence, but he couldn’t find his pants in the closet,” Carolyn said of her husband of 54 years.

Steven remembers Harry investigating an accident between a bread truck and a train, and using Steven’s toys to re-create the scene at home as he pieced together the evidence.

In 31 years, Harry fired his service revolver twice, but never shot at anyone, Carolyn said. Instead, he used his skills to talk people out of situations, Sabrina said.

Harry also could assume the role of “different characters,” once dressing like a college football scout and talking up Sabrina’s then-high school boyfriend to the other football scouts. 

At times, it seemed like the Smiths had their roles reversed, with Carolyn the calm, structured presence and Harry the emotional one.

Their different personalities complemented each other and, at times, caused friction.

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