Godspeed, good man.
Dane Smith, 12/22/54 - 5/9/03
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If anyone ever espoused that old adage "live every day to its fullest," it was my mentor, Dane Smith. If anyone ever exemplified perseverance, determination, and adventure, it was my role model, Dane Smith. If anyone has ever personified the archetypal uncle to two nephews, it was ours, Dane Smith. However, if there was ever anyone more suited to play a round of golf and enjoy a beer and a burger with afterwards, it was my friend, Dane Smith.
Sadly, I was just beginning to understand these truths about him.
Dane was a very unique person in my life. He was younger than my father but older than my other friends. Even though I never had to do so, I could have and would have trusted him with information I felt I couldn't tell my father for fear of judgement and my friends for fear of ridicule. (Fortunately, that's a testament to my relationship with my father and my friends.)
I realize that it is a tall order, but he truly did represent all of the aforementioned qualities. Since I have been old enough to know him he avidly skydived, kayaked, canoed, skied, raced mountain bikes, golfed, etc. He was a hardcore scuba diver and boat captain. He was a fantastic cook, baker, and home-brewer. He also possessed a comprehensive knowledge of wine, cigars, and ice hockey. (Being a Flyers fan myself, I could forgive him for being a Penguins fan.) Did I mention that he worked at Harley Davidson and thoroughly enjoyed one of their motorcycles? However, paramount to everything else, he was an excellent sibling to my mother, Jane, a great brother-in-law to my father, Bob, and an outstanding husband as he found his love, our Aunt Carmel, only a few years ago.
Dane played a very important role in my life as well as my brother's. He helped shape who Steve and I are today. Hearing him relay his seemingly tall tales of ski trips and scuba diving excursions with giant lobsters over holiday dinners only peaked our interest to do the same for ourselves. As Steve and I grew older and began traveling for ourselves, I always sensed that we were somehow competing to have the better traveling story to impress Dane with. I realize that it sounds completely immature but we knew just how much he enjoyed hearing about our trips.
Having recently relocated to Charleston, South Carolina with my fiancée, it is especially difficult to know that he will never be able to visit us, at least in body, because it is his type of place. Everyday I cross a river and a wide expanse of wetlands with a drawbridge in the middle surrounded by two marinas and a restaurant called The Noisy Oyster. If that scene that doesn't typify my uncle I don't know what does.
Dane's life was cut tragically short. Fortunately, he has two enthusiastic nephews who are anxious to become the mentor, the role model, the uncle, and the friend to their own nephews whenever that day may come.
For this nephew, everything that I loved and respected about Dane Smith will always be docked and anchored, waiting to be handed down, in that one particular harbor.
Benjamin Hess, 10/19/2003