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John Howard Smith

May 20, 2022

Obituary

JOHN HOWARD SMITH

July 29, 1943 – May 20, 2022

John was born in London, England during an air raid blackout and thunderstorm in the middle of the night, and was a breech birth.  No doubt his mother Daisy was too exhausted to consider possible alternate names.  John’s brother Roger was born in 1946. The family moved east to Leigh-on-Sea, on the tidal estuary of the River Thames, in 1952.  John’s father Ashley died of a heart attack at age 46, and so John assumed many responsibilities as a youth.

After school and technical college John worked as an electronics technician.  At the age of 24, he set off for Canada with no particular plan. He landed in Montreal in November 1967, where it was colder than he ever thought was possible.  John spent the next two years travelling across Canada, and working in Calgary, Prince Rupert, and on Vancouver Island. In 1969, John hitchhiked back east across Canada on his way back to England. He found that he really did not belong in England anymore, and returned to Canada, where he met his future wife Lorna the same day that he got off the plane in Vancouver.

In the spring of 1970, John and Lorna set out together for the Maritimes, looking for a different way of life away from the city. They bought an abandoned farm in Nova Scotia; a hundred acres with a house that had been built in 1842, and a 60-foot barn that needed a new roof. Before long they had tractors and equipment, cows, sheep, two acres of strawberries, ten acres of hay, and lots of information from their neighbours, who had farmed in Pictou County for generations. There was always a shortfall of cash during the winter. John cut logs off the property that could be sold for 50 cents each for pit props in the coal mines in nearby Stellarton.  Lorna hitched up the logs and pulled them out of the woods with the farm tractor. It was hard work in the snow, stacking eight-foot lengths by hand.

One winter, John went to a course in welding and blacksmithing at the agricultural college in Truro, immediately fell in love with blacksmithing, and saw it as a way to make a living during the winter months. John partnered with a neighbour and set up the “Forge and Anvil” blacksmith shop, where he worked during the winter months and continued farming in the summer.

After 10 years on the farm, Lorna and John had two beautiful little daughters and Lorna wanted to move back to the Kootenays, where she grew up.  In 1980 they sold everything that they couldn’t pack, and travelled back to BC, bringing along all the blacksmithing tools. In 1981, they found a piece of land to buy and a house to rent in Crawford Bay.  John’s first blacksmith shop was in the garage next to the old Crawford Bay Store.

Between 1981 and 2021, John built three blacksmith shops, and travelled extensively to trade and craft shows to build up the blacksmithing business. Kootenay Forge became a name that was known to blacksmiths across Canada and the USA.   He trained 20 people, most of whom were his employees for varying lengths of time, and he was the first blacksmithing instructor at the Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson.  Several people that he trained went on to start their own blacksmithing businesses. John was either a founder or participant in the creation of the East Shore Mainstreet newspaper, the Artisans of Crawford Bay, the Kootenay Blacksmiths Association, and the Starbelly Jam Music Festival.  He chaired several other community organizations, including the Kootenay Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Hall and Park board, and the Economic Development Commission.  It is easy to find evidence of John’s vision, work, and community participation wherever you look on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake.

In 2003, John and Lorna moved to a lakeshore property, retirement slowly happened, and grandchildren were being born.  These were still busy years, but there was also plenty of time for play, swimming and canoeing, campfires and hiking, and travel to a few exotic lands.

In 2015, John was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.  John promptly organized the first Parkinson’s support group on the East Shore. He also continued to volunteer in the community, serving on the board for the Bluebell Manor and the East Shore Transportation Society. In 2017 John and Lorna built a new home in Crawford Bay with easy access and a short level driveway.  John faced his deteriorating health with a great deal of bravery and patience over the next five years.  John made new friends of home support personnel and hospice volunteers. Despite increasing confusion from dementia, John always fondly remembered his various friends and neighbours in the community.  His love of music and conversation, and his gentle humour, persisted until the end.  

 John came backwards into the world.  He left it facing forwards, with his humour, determination, and faith for the future still lighting his way.  He died peacefully on May 20, 2022, surrounded by family – his wife Lorna, daughters Gina and Marla, sons-in-law Cory Medhurst and Marc Leganchuk, brother Roger, and granddaughter Rowan. He is also survived by beloved granddaughters Teagan and Tienna. There will be a memorial event for John in July.

 

Friends and family

can make a memorial contribution to the

Canadian Red Cross   

Bag 3000 Creston, B.C.

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