Losing Ted Smith

6 September 2012

I met Ted Smith many years ago, when he had just started at the Kendall Foundation, in my role as a fundraiser for Earthjustice. We continued our connection when I moved to my current place of work here at Mother Jones. Ted and I made a point of meeting up for lunch or coffee whenever I’d come through Boston – even (actually, especially) after the grantor-grantee relationship had gone by the wayside: this actually gave us the chance just to talk together and catch up without all the transactional undertow that comes from the giving and getting of money.
Late last week, Buck Parker (we worked together for many years at Earthjustice, and since then have gone backpacking together the past several years) passed along word that Ted had had died in terrible accident while hiking with his family.  I can only begin to imagine how painful and difficult a situation it has been for them – even if, as his brother Roger wrote in an email confirming Ted’s death, that he died doing what he loved most, in a landscape he loved best, with people he loved completely.
I so appreciated my conversations with Ted, not only for what he said and thought, but for *how* he thought about tough problems. Ideas seemed incredibly light in his hands – he’d look at a question first from this angle, then from that one, turning it over and upside down and inside out to see how close we could come to what was really going on out there in the material world. Ideas for Ted were like jewels, with unexpected facets and refractions, their beauty something to behold even as their flaws became visible. Some folks I know would get impatient with Ted’s thought process, but I loved it.
Without fail I’d leave our short times together, well, delighted and inspired. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who had this experience with Ted.
When Ted left Boston and moved back to Montana, it became harder to visit; Buck and I almost made it to his home on our way to Glacier a couple of years ago, but couldn’t quite get the logistics in place. Just a few weeks ago I’d traded emails with Ted; we agreed to get together out here in San Francisco the next time he visited.
I was really looking forward to seeing him again, and am heartbroken that that won’t happen.
Ted’s deep thoughtfulness and passion for the places and people he valued touched many, many people’s lives, including mine. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to know him. He was one of the really good guys.
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