FRANKLIN SQUARE - Dwain Wilson Smith of Franklin Square and recently of Oneonta, passed away peacefully on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, at Mountainside Residential Care Center in Margaretville surrounded by family.
Dwain was born on June 1, 1925, in Brooklyn, to Anne Marie Wilson Smith and Dwain Melancthon Smith.
He grew up in St. Albans with his two younger sisters, Hope and Joan, and was part of a loving extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who were the first to enjoy his wonderful sense of humor and love of fun.
He attended P.S. 118 in Hollis, and many years later arranged a large reunion for graduates of that elementary school.
He attended high school at Andrew Jackson in Cambria Heights. He also arranged an Andrew Jackson reunion in 1998, shortly after the school's closing.
He had a happy childhood and summers included staying at his grandparents' bungalow in Melville, visiting his aunt and uncle in Rochester and attending Boy Scout camp. It was during his time at Boy Scout camp that he met the Zehners, the family who owned a guest house in Narrowsburg that became the site of many family vacations over the years.
During high school he got a part time job as a "soda jerk" at Loft's Candy Store, where he was able to indulge his love of ice cream and candy. Despite being allowed unlimited ice cream and candy, he never tired of them, and maintained and indulged his love of sweets throughout his life. His motto was "eat dessert first!"
He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II as a radio operator at Ladd Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Alaska. Following discharge he worked as a reporter at St. Albans Life.
On Valentine's Day 1948, he married Elaine Rieke. They were married for 64 years until her death in 2012. They moved to Franklin Square in 1955 where they raised their three children, Craig, Barbara, and Penny.
The house was always open to the neighborhood kids, and every year he'd host a "bonfire" in the backyard for the kids with songs and scary stories.
His grandchildren would each spend a week in the summer with Elaine and Dwain, and many happy memories were created.
While raising his family and working full time, he attended New York University at night through the G.I. Bill. He earned a BA in marketing and had a successful career in business, ending his career with 20-plus years as Administrative Director at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
After retiring in 1987, he worked part-time for several years at the English Speaking Union.
Dwain was a man of many interests and his avocations defined him more than his vocation. He learned to play the bagpipes in adulthood, went on to become a member of the Gleneagle Highlanders Band, and played at the weddings of many friends and family members.
His love of Scotland and things Scottish led him to take a solo trip to Scotland in 1971, where he hitchhiked through the country and made many new friends.
In 1993, he spent five months playing the bagpipes at Huis Ten Bosch, a Dutch theme park in Nagasaki, Japan.
He appeared on the TV quiz show Password in the early 1960s, with celebrity contestants Peggy Cass and Anthony Perkins. He won money which paid for a family cruise to Bermuda.
In the early 1970s, he and his father joined the Sons of the Desert, the International Laurel and Hardy Appreciation Society. Through the Sons, he made friends throughout the world and helped spread love of "the Boys" to many.
He served as President of the New York Founding Tent of the Sons from 1976 to 1980, helped organize the NY '94 Convention of the Sons, and was the Corresponding Secretary "forever." He attended all 20 of the International conventions of the Sons, accompanied by Elaine until her death, his sisters, his daughters and granddaughter Amanda, most recently attending the 20th convention in Cumbria, England in 2016. He had hoped to attend the 21st convention in Cincinnati in 2018, where his presence will be sorely missed.
Other interests included senior softball, which he played well into his 80's, and community theater.
He was an active member of the Wesley Players, the theater group of the Wesley United Methodist Church in Franklin Square. He belonged to the Methodist Church through all his life, first to Grace Methodist Church in St. Albans, where he and Elaine were married, and then Wesley United Methodist Church until his death.
Dwain had a beautiful speaking voice, and created books on tape as a volunteer for Reading for the Blind.
In retirement, he read to kindergartners at Willow Road Elementary School.
He and Elaine enjoyed travels throughout the U.S. and Europe, attending Sons of the Desert Conventions, visiting friends and family, and sharing adventures.
When home he was a devoted gardener and an early adopter of organic gardening.
To be closer to family, he moved to the Plains in Oneonta in 2015, where he made many new friends. In 2017, he moved to Mountainside Residential Care Center and received loving care.
Dwain was loved by many throughout the world, but especially by his family, who will miss his loving presence and guidance. Tributes have poured in since his passing. Some of the tributes included "Dwain Smith changed my life forever. He may have more friends than anyone I know," "I remember so well Dwain's kindness and sense of humor," "He was the kindest person, a true gentleman." People used the words gracious, beloved, one of a kind, unforgettable and one-in-a-million to describe him.
No words can ever capture the impact he had on so many lives and the happiness he brought to so many.
Dwain was predeceased by his beloved wife, Elaine; parents; sister, Hope; and faithful family dog, Rufus T. Firefly.
He is survived by his children, Craig Smith of Delhi, Barbara (Bob) Green of Delhi, Penny (Craig) Boehle of Toms River, New Jersey; grandchildren, Amanda Green of Delhi, Sean (Ally) Wallace of Winona, Minnesota, Daniel Green of Carmichael, California, and Devon Wallace of Toms River, New Jersey, who will all miss him greatly and whose lives were enriched by his tender love. He is also survived by his sister, Joan Gaetano of Hicksville; sister-in-law, Mary Rieke of Ridgefield, Connecticut; and loving nieces, nephews, and cousins.
A lifelong animal lover, Dwain is also survived by his cats, Mehitabel and Freckles, and once stray cat Eddie, now residing at Calling All Cats Sanctuary.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Dwain's memory to Calling All Cats Rescues Farm Sanctuary (1001 Fischer Blvd., Box 206, Toms River, NJ 08753); Bat Conservation International; or an animal charity of the donor's choosing.
Calling hours will be at Krauss Funeral Home in Franklin Square from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 9, followed by a memorial service at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 10, at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Franklin Square.
Published on December 5, 2017