Richard H. Smith
October 21, 1929, Detroit, MI - October 11, 2020, Bedford, TX
Richard was the son of Lawrence C. Smith and Blanche M. Smith and brother of Robert Smith (d. 2017), Patricia Smith Peirson, and Kenneth Smith. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Beverly Mershon Smith and sons, Douglas L. Smith and his wife, Barbara Aspinall Smith of Basking Ridge, NJ; Brian R. Smith and his wife, Patricia Beauregard Smith, of Colleyville, TX; and daughter, Penelope Smith Huynen and her husband, Ron Huynen, of Holderness, NH, five grandsons: Colin Smith, Andrew Smith and his wife, Nina, Evan Smith, Matthew Smith, Bradley Smith and three granddaughters: Emily Smith and Anneke and Catharina Huynen.
Growing up, Richard was very active in Boy Scouts and became an Eagle Scout. He earned membership in Scouting’s Order of the Arrow, where he came naturally to the Order’s obligation to preserve a cheerful spirit even in the midst of irksome tasks and weighty responsibilities, and to be unselfish in service and devotion to the welfare of others. These are values he maintained throughout his life and instilled in his family. His scouting experience encouraged his sons and grandsons Matthew and Bradley to be active Scouts. Bradley became an Eagle Scout and Richard was delighted to attend his Eagle Ceremony.
Richard graduated from Southeastern High School in Detroit and then entered the University of Michigan’s Engineering school. Given his endless curiosity and ingenuity, it was a perfect place to develop his natural abilities. He graduated from Michigan in 1951 with a Mechanical Engineering degree. Owing to his success in his engineering studies, he was accepted into the prestigious Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and the Pi Tau Sigma Mechanical Engineering Honor Society. He remained an enthusiastic and proud U of M alumnus for his entire life, with “Go Blue” one of his favorite phrases.
Richard subsequently attended the Chrysler Technical Institute, from which he graduated in 1952 with a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. He then joined Chrysler’s research and development department. There, he was assigned to Chrysler’s project team that developed a gas turbine automobile. His family was thrilled to have the opportunity to ride in one of the 50 beautiful Chrysler prototype gas turbine cars for a week. The car was featured at the 1964-65 World’s Fair. His gas turbine expertise led to further work with General Motors. Richard joined the GM gas turbine development team in 1972. Despite many attractive features, the gas turbine car was never placed into production. Richard worked on a number of other challenging development projects through the remainder of his career at GM. He was part of a talented group of GM engineers that formed an active social group. These friends and their spouses went on numerous outings before and after their retirements. In addition to becoming a Professional Engineer, over the course of his auto industry career, Richard authored nine United States patents, seven of which he was the sole inventor.
A benefit of his U of M connection was the opportunity to take his family on summer vacations to Camp Michigania on Walloon Lake in northern Michigan. After going to Michigania’s first opening week in the mid 1960’s, the family returned to the Camp almost every summer. Richard helped his children learn to sail, horseback ride, shoot archery, make wonderful arts and crafts and develop other camping skills. Other vacations featured trips throughout the country, including a month-long family car trip “out west.” Later he and Beverly embarked on trips throughout the world as well as taking vacation trips to New Hampshire and Canada to be with their children’s families. Richard and Beverly toured Europe and Canada with his brothers and sister and their spouses.
In late 2014, Richard and Beverly headed for the warmer climes and moved to Bedford, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, to be near Brian’s family. In addition to watching his grandchildren grow up, he enjoyed the area’s many cultural and recreational activities, including the Dallas Symphony, theater and museums.
Richard loved games, especially Bridge. He was an avid member of various Bridge clubs and groups and was often a winner of various events. Card games were always a key part of family vacations. He was an ebullient storyteller and regaled the grandchildren with many tales of his family and pets, notably the family dog, Foxey.
Richard was devoted to his family. While growing up, Richard’s family had a summer cottage on Union Lake, northwest of Detroit. He and his siblings spent many happy summers there enjoying the lake with friends and neighbors. The cottage continued to be a place of entertaining gatherings for Richard’s and his siblings’ families for many years. His wife, Beverly, and his children were the true centers of his adult life. Richard and Beverly made their home and raised their family in the Birmingham, Michigan area, northwest of Detroit. Richard was unstinting in his support of his family’s endeavors, be they educational, social or professional. A prime example is the encouragement Richard gave Beverly to finish her education through graduate school and his active support of her artistic endeavors and career. He was delighted in seeing his wife and children grow and prosper, providing them guidance when needed and proudly knowing when each was ready to explore on their own.
An online memorial service will be held to celebrate Richard’s life on Sunday October 25th at 4 pm EDT/3 pm CDT. If you wish to view the service, please send an email with your preferred email address to RichardSmithMemorial@gmail.com.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent in Richard’s memory to the Michigan Engineering Fund - Scholarships – 306667, or to the Alzheimer’s Association. https://www.alz.org
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