Michael Henry Frank "Mick" Smith, 83 -- educator, craftsman, float builder extraordinaire, friend to anyone who ever shook his hand -- died on Sunday, January 7, 2018, under Hospice care in Mississippi after a brief but aggressive illness.
Born in Hertfordshire, England, Mick served in the Royal Air Force, then worked as an aircraft electrician and later received degrees from Wall Hall College of Education, London University and Cambridge University. In the 1960s he was one of England's celebrated potters. Ultimately, he worked for Margaret Thatcher when she was minister of education. In fact, she appointed him headmaster of a large special education school in London.
Mick was already the father of seven children, ages 2 to 15, when he met and married Connecticut yankee Nancy Butler in Berkhamsted, 40 miles north of London, in 1974. Mick and Nancy brought the brood across the pond, first to New Hampshire, then to Florida, where he worked a year for the Boys Club of Palm Beach County before morphing into almost a legendary figure in Martin County.
During much of the 1980s Mick was a teacher at Tri-County Rehabilitation Center (now called Helping People Succeed) and Martin County Schools Adult Education; a self-employed wood carver; and from 1988 until he retired in 1995 he ran the workshop for The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News, becoming the newspaper's creative spirit.
Mick was known best for his Martin County Fair booths, chili cook off displays, winning Port St. Lucie Raft Race entries (the boat he designed and built even beat the Budweiser Racing Team's), and elaborate Port St. Lucie News floats that on the Fourth of July depicted some massive, inspiring styrofoam-carved American treasure -- Mount Rushmore, Iwo Jima, the Vietnam Wall, the Lincoln Monument, for example. His piece de resistance year after year was the Santa sleigh, complete with eight reindeer and toys, representing the News in Christmas parades up and down the Treasure Coast. It was a conversation piece, the last parade entry, carrying Santa into town.
In the later years of his life, impeded though he was with chronic heart failure and COPD, he spent some of his happiest times in Tallahassee volunteering with his friend, the great architect Peter Jefferson, as a docent at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee.
Mick loved everything that lives or reflects life -- travel, art, symphonies, opera, the blues, good books, birds, trees, gardening, all manner of work a human being can do with his hands. He was a connoisseur of all of it. This was a larger-than-life man with an enormous gift of register -- the ability to talk to everyone in their own vernacular and make them feel as if he's know them all his life. His compassion was endless, his British nonsensical wit addictive, his interest in history voluminous. Nobody could have had a more devoted, more loyal friend than Mick Smith.
Those who knew Mick best can tell you his family came first. He loved them unconditionally, warts and all -- his wife, Nancy; his sons, Kelvin, Philip, Mark, Christopher and David; his daughters, Miranda and Kirsty; his 14 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren; his brother, Alan and all the Smiths he leaves behind in England. He lives on in their beautiful hearts and souls.
The family is planning a celebration of Mick's life in Stuart, FL later in the month, to be announced on Nancy Smith's Facebook page.
Southern Mississippi Funeral Services, 6631 Washington Avenue in Ocean Springs, MS, is honored to serve the Smith family.
For more information, please call (228) 872-3637.