James (Jim) Maurice Smith
HE WAS LIKE AN OLD CHEVY,
“THEY DON’T MAKE ’EM LIKE THEY USED TO”
Known for spinning a tale like a magician pulling colored scarves out of a hat ...
James (Jim) Maurice Smith passed after a brief illness on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. He resided with his family in the town of Sonoma, on his beloved Rancho Pequeno, for 44 of his 85 years.
Jim was born in Taylor, Neb., on Aug. 4, 1933, to Ruth and Ellsworth Smith. Grandparents, Maurice and Bessie Smith, helped to raise him until the age of eight. His older sister Yvonne Kraal (who survives him) and he traveled alone out west to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, on a bus to reunite with his mother Ruth and new combined family; step father Wilfred Andrews, brother George Andrews and sister Margret (Peggy) Andrews Kensok (all of whom have passed before him).
In Idaho, Jim learned how to be Jim: Farming hundreds of acres of wheat, riding horses, boxing, freely fishing and hiking the Selkirk Mountains, and hauling anything that could turn a profit. He was mechanically inclined and cars became his passion. In his 20s he purchased, rebuilt and raced cars on the dirt track in Spokane, Wash., winning many awards.
He graduated from Bonners Ferry High School as the “most likely to succeed” and served two years in the U.S. Army. Upon leaving the military, Jim found work on bridges and dams while moving farther out west. His quest for knowledge in construction led him to San Francisco and Cogswell Polytechnical College. In San Francisco, he met and married his beautiful and intelligent wife of 60 years, Gloria Blake Smith (who survives him), and started a family.
In 1959 he graduated college with honors and continued to grow his business — James M. Smith Construction Company. He began with small projects and custom homes, eventually developing a subdivision in Tiburon, Calif. He built numerous commercial buildings including a boatload of convenience stores from Central California to the Oregon border. Jim built both the 7-Elevens in Sonoma, Calif., before moving there, which opened his eyes to the wonderful farming community that was Sonoma.
In 1974, Jim and Gloria purchased the historic Andronico Vallejo Adobe in Sonoma, reconnecting Gloria to her early California heritage and he to his farming roots. They decided to raise their family of four girls in town, mind you no boys: Michelle Smith, Susan Lindstrom, Andrea Gray all of Sonoma, and Jamie Smith of Santa Rosa. Jim didn’t stop building and was the general contractor for the first phase of the Market Place. He built housing and retail space in San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa.
Later in his 50s, Jim’s passion for cars resurfaced. He restored more than 15 pre-war BMWs and owns the most extensive collection in the United States. The cars have taken him on adventures all over the world, including Italy’s famed Mille Miglia. Jim was a private pilot who flew back and forth to his jobs and favorite vacation spots in Idaho and Mexico, with family and friends.
A recreational tennis player, Jim always enjoyed the friendly competition and the raucous parties in the barn. He was an avid duck hunter who loved his hunting dogs Jake and Blue. Jim was particularly partial to his cabin in Bonners Ferry, which he visited every summer. He preferred the simple life there: hiking, fishing, reminiscing with friends and snacking on deep fried chicken gizzards from 3-Mile Cafe.
In later years you could find Jim driving his ATV through his vineyards repairing the drip system.
A true renaissance man, there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t try. If it was broken, it could be fixed and he never let his wife, girls and grandkids forget it. His stories were magical and his ability to recall his life adventures was legendary. Always sprinkled with stardust, they twinkled and often shined. Once you met Jim, you never forgot him, nor he you. He seemed to live the lives of several men, touching so many lives throughout the years.
Jim is survived by his sons-in-law Karl Lindstrom, Tim Gray and Carl Hamilton, who he loved as his own. He was an outstanding Papa to his grandkids Erik and his wife Amber Lindstrom, Eva Lindstrom, Peter and Alison Gray, Isla Hamilton, Darius and Dylan Hamiltons-Smith (all of whom survives him) and Christopher Hamilton (deceased). He is also survived by many nieces, nephews and close friends.
Life was a journey upstream and Jim was a “big fish.”
Someone once said, “A hero lives forever, but a legend never dies.”