The Family of Keith Howard Smith brings news of his passing, at the age of 68 years.
We know this is a time when many people who loved him and were impacted by him, are connecting their lives to him.
As we reflect on the story of his life, we celebrate and are thankful for the breadth and depth of his roles and experiences. We consider the relationships and commitments he kept, the places he travelled, the events and gatherings he attended, the personal values and principles that guided him and impacted his choices, and who he was to each of us.
We find comfort as we remember the ways he chose to define success as a Man, and how he measured the quality of his life.
Our Dad was the bravest, most fiercely determined man we have ever known. His life details how he worked purposefully and methodically, choosing each moment to be present and alive with us all. The true beauty of this man is how he understood, believed, and accepted that today is the only day that mattered. He soaked up all that was good in life and was one who deeply valued kindness.
He is remembered by us all for his incredible laugh, relaxed nature, and gentle but steady presence. It was easy to see he cultivated a thankfulness and appreciation for the life he lived and the people he shared his days and time with.
We consider how he took great care to choose the way he interacted with the world around him and respond to all that life presented to him.
Keith had incredible mental and physical fortitude; he was a man well acquainted with internal and external labour. He had a deep drive to live well. He did not dwell on hardship but rather chose to peacefully meet each day as it came, rolling with the unexpected, appreciating the good, and finding ways to laugh at the wonder and absurdity of the human experience.
Dad spent many hours of his life reading stories. He had a curiosity that lent himself to seeking out tales of human survival, community building, protection, and action by way of military and world history, and man’s relationship to animals. He was one who believed in the power of an individual’s right to choose. Historical events evidenced, for him, that freedom lies in how a person chooses to participate in and respond to the world around them.
Life was quite simple for Dad. He found great comfort in observing and interacting with nature and animals. Dad knew animals have incredible instincts for measuring safety, and he enjoyed being quietly present, allowing all creatures around him the freedom to “be.” In essence, he sought the same for himself. While he may have seemed to live a quiet, lone life, it actually represented that he needed a specific environment to survive in. He did not ask for much, require much, and lived so as not to waste resources or disturb nature. He honoured the natural world and always had many four-legged companions close at his heels as he moved around his property. It was a peaceful place for him, and them; a perfect symbiosis of man and nature.
Keith was very good at meeting people where they were at. Even though he understood people must lie in the beds they made, eventually finding themselves dealing with the natural consequences of their own actions and inactions, he was never a man to judge. If you are someone who shared meals and coffee with him, you’ll remember he didn’t have much use for complainers and would often shake his head and chuckle when he would witness good people make poor choices. He also recognized genuine humility in people and liked to see them return to common sense, for the good of themselves and their families.
Dad was always quick to help in times of need, offering support when and where he could. He was the kind of man people looked forward to spending time with. Over his lifetime, he served his community when he was able in between trucking trips. He was a long-standing member of the MacDowall and District Lions Club, a volunteer firefighter, and would lend a hand when a need arose. He was an ever-present figure at local events, meeting others for meals and a cup of coffee whenever he was able. He made lots of time to attend hockey games, social events, and family gatherings.
In his family life, he was born to Howard and Kathleen Smith on May 12, 1954. Raised and rooted in MacDowall, Saskatchewan, he was the fourth of five children. Keith was the only son. He shared his childhood surrounded by four sisters: Linda, Maryann, Barbara, and Kathy. They adored their brother and loved spending time with him as much as possible. In the latter part of his life, Dad would announce he would be off to meet with his sisters where they would spend a couple of days just being together and enjoying each other’s company.
As his family of origin grew into their adulthood, he came into one of his most cherished roles as Uncle Keith. He was deeply loved by all his nieces and nephews. Laughing with Uncle Keith was always a central memory, and for us, his absolute delight from teaching some of our “city slicker” cousins to drive an old truck with a screwdriver for the shift stick. He will be greatly missed by them, their partners, and their children.
In his professional life, he was known primarily as a self-employed long-haul trucker. Outside of this, Dad was no stranger to physical labour. He never truly “retired” but would find himself keeping busy with seasonal work, hauling equipment, or driving truck when and where it suited his needs.
Keith was humble about his skills and knowledge. He was a man who excelled due to a determination to learn and a strong work ethic. He was known, from time to time, to take the scenic route in life, acquiring wisdom and smarts through trails of unlikely learning processes. Because of this, he leaves behind incredible stories. He left us with a sense of awe as to how success can be measured in a myriad of ways, and freedom belongs to all people. He not only stated, “you can do anything you set your mind to,” he lived it.
An underlying truth is Keith was required to build a life that included a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. He was quiet about this reality, and we were so pleased for him when he found incredible friendships and a supportive community with fellow Brothers and Sisters who lived with this condition. Dad always looked forward to their annual conventions and his eyes would sparkle as he rested in a safe space where people understood and accepted each other’s intimate realities. He was free to talk as much (or as little) about this part of his life. There was much rest for him in these friendships. It was an honour to see Dad arrive in this environment and watch him being celebrated for his incredible fortitude and strong mental capacity to face each day well.
In his later years, Dad found a loyal and caring friend in Gail Friesen. They would adventure and travel together, but also found happiness in little things. They shared a lot of life together over the years. Keith also enjoyed many memories with Gail’s family and had a special place in his heart for Gail’s granddaughter, Mackenzie. The Family is thankful for Gail’s presence and kindness in his life.
Above all else, no matter what he did or accomplished, Keith’s heart soared knowing he left an incredible legacy behind in his Family. Through his marriage to Carolyn Smith, he became a loving Dad to Clinton and Kirsty. He always said his kids were the best thing he ever “did” in life.
He was profoundly proud of the man his son Clint had come to be. It was a good day when Clint and Alison returned to Saskatchewan after years of living in Alberta. It made Dad so happy to be able to help his son. A favourite memory is the day he packed up and zipped a loader off to Clint’s place for snow clearing; that is so much of whom Dad was, always generous and practical, looking to make life easier for his kids. There was a knowing of their respect for one another as they talked with such ease about all things mechanical. Quiet pride of their shared knowledge, knowing smiles, and laughter over the absurdity of people and life…these were solid foundations that held proof of their love for one another.
Keith was fiercely supportive of Kirsty in her life’s work and calling. He understood, better than anyone, how important practical care was in building a beautiful, peaceful life. He would listen with such love as she shared her plans and dreams. He faithfully showed up to assist her as she moved towards them. His celebration of her accomplishments was held in gentle sentences, lots of laughter, and long, drawn-out hugs, while surrounded by the perfect chaos of her five children.
From 2006 - 2018, he rose to his most beautiful role in life, Grandpa Keith. Charlotte, Elliot, Nina, Camille, and Josephine were the beat of his heart. He happily arrived to play games, read stories, celebrate birthdays and accomplishments, laugh, hold, and comfort each of them. There was no greater buzz in the house than the news that Grandpa was on his way. Some of you may recall seeing him on work sites with his nails painted, lovingly done by his three little giggling granddaughters. He carved out time to take his two oldest grandchildren out for supper and then drive them to their activities. He was a present and very involved Grandpa.
We know that out of the thousands of miles he logged in his lifetime, there were no miles as important as the ones he logged travelling to spend time with his Grandchildren. We are grateful for the power of technology to have captured so many beautiful memories with Grandpa. He is woven into the hearts and lives of these children. His love and way of life left an indelible mark, and they carry him with them everywhere they go.
Woven into our knowledge of Dad is how much he appreciated this line from one of his favourite movies, The Shawshank Redemption: “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Life always came down to Freedom of choice, for him. This was a guiding principle for Dad. We respect and understand the fullness of his choices, and how he worked to live and fight to make the absolute best of each day as it unfolded in front of him. He was deeply driven to provide and care for his family. So much of his labour became his greatest love story.
He was both a private man and a present one. Even though he loved good conversation and company, his greatest life statement came from what he did not say and did not do. He demonstrated to the world, each of us has the right to make our contribution of strength to the world, and the right to save our vulnerabilities for the people who will handle them with respect and gentleness. He never felt the need to explain his choices, he just was whom he needed to be, so he could live the fullest life possible.
Keith taught so many of us the powerful lesson of knowing how to set the tone of one’s day in order to accomplish specific goals, never to sweat the small stuff, all the while perfecting the art of living true to one’s self.
We honour how he lived, moved, and operated in the world. We could not be prouder of him, and we will ache for his physical absence. In the same way, we are forever changed by his love and courage.
The Family is thankful for the ways people shared in his life. In honour of Dad’s wishes, there will not be a public service. In Keith’s true fashion, we hope that we (and you all) will share memories in “whites-of-the-eyes” moments. The joy of knowing Keith came in person-to-person interaction. As time passes, we will all cross paths and we will find he lives on in those face-to-face visits.
We can think of no more beautiful way to honour his slow-paced, gentle way of living than to relax into love for one another and arrive to help each other as needs arise. Honour him with your kindness, your quest for peace, and in extending grace while allowing others to travel through life at a pace that suits them.
When you think of Keith, we hope you give yourself permission to take your time with what is hard and make room for what is good and easy. As you contemplate your relationship with him, remember the power of a strong mind as you approach each day. In these quiet moments, you will see how he lives on.
Thank you all for making Dad’s life beautiful.
Thank you for sharing days with him.
Thank you for loving him well.
In honour of his wishes, there will not be a public service.
Please visit the tribute wall, to leave a story or condolence for the family.
Funeral arrangements entrusted to Funk's Funeral Home, Rosthern, SK