Gary Robert Smith (Friday, October 8th, 1937 – Wednesday, January 18th, 2023)
Gary passed away peacefully in the presence of family at the Olds Hospital and Care Centre on Wednesday, January 18th, 2023 at the age of 85. He is lovingly remembered by his wife of 65 years, Donna; daughter Tami (Roy) Gardner, granddaughter Tracy (Rudy Friesen), grandson Brody (Justine) and great-grandchildren Calynn and Hiller, grandson Tyson (Lisa) and great-granddaughter Emma; and son Rob.
Gary was born in Calgary to Rita (Mickle) Smith and Norman Smith. His childhood was spent living from north of Cremona through Bottrell, Westbrook, and Cochrane to Jumping Pound. He left school at age 14 and started working, including at Bert & Miriam Powlesland’s renowned Hereford ranch. He also spent a significant amount of time with his “pseudo” parents, Lenny & Jo Mickle at Jumping Pound.
Gary’s met the ‘love of his life’ when he started courting Donna Fenton of Bottrell. His Mickle family were close friends with Donna’s beloved Granny Allan and enjoyed many ‘good times’ in her hospitality. Gary & Donna were wed in Calgary on Thursday, November 7th, 1957. They proceeded to live in over a dozen homes for the next decade, following Gary’s work, until they settled in Calgary in the mid-60s. Tami arrived in 1959 and travelled across Alberta and BC with her parents. They had settled in Westgate in SW Calgary when Rob joined in 1968. Gary’s work at this time with the Government of Alberta’s Department of Highways would be his all-time favourite employment until he became his own “boss”.
Donna & Gary’s dream of farming came true in April, 1970 with their move to the Harmattan area between Olds and Sundre. By the early 70s, they were both farming fulltime with dairy and beef cows, hogs, chickens, and turkeys in addition to their forage and grain crops. The most land they’d farm was 2,000+ acres annually before focussing on their seedstock beef cattle production of commercial and purebred cows. Their herd became exclusively purebred Pinzgauer in 1988 with Black Angus added starting in 1994 and Red Angus one year later.
For their first 10 years at their ranch, Gary & Donna farmed closely with Bill & Vi Beatty, sharing equipment, and learning from a great steward of both the land and livestock. Dave & Irene Morgan became the best of friends, and more learning and cattle herd expansion took place. Barry & Delphine Slater of Loverna, SK became extremely close friends as well, leading to multiple cattle and used farm equipment deals. All six of these important, impactful friends predecease Gary.
Through the years, Gary was a deacon at the Woodcliff United Church in SW Calgary, a member of Olds Royal Canadian Legion #105 and Sundre BPO Elks Lodge No. 338, an Assistant Leader with the Eagle 4-H Beef Club, a long-term Director and Past President of the Canadian Pinzgauer Association, and a multiple decade Director and Vice President of the Olds Agriculture Society / Olds Regional Exhibition (ORE). With Donna, they became Honourary Lifetime Members in 2008 were awarded the ORE Industry Leadership Award (2014).
In creating the family seedstock business “Diamond T Cattle Co.”, including the 2-character right rib brand inherited from uncle Lenny & auntie Jo, they were named national Premier Breeder and Premier Exhibitor by the Canadian Pinzgauer Association most years from 1984 to 2003 and Alberta Angus Association Breeder of the Year in 2007. They were particularly proud of their 11 American Pinzgauer Association National Show Grand or Reserve Grand Champion Females and Bulls in cities like Seattle/Tacoma, Dallas/Fort Worth, Sacramento, Memphis, Tyler, and Milwaukee; their great success at the World Angus Forum held in July, 2009 at Spruce Meadows with numerous division champions; and exporting genetics, both live and frozen, to over a dozen countries. There were also trips to Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Slovakia, and Mexico in addition to the U.S. Gary made friends around the world, typically over glasses of beer, schnapps, or whiskey.
Gary is survived by his brother Dennis (DonaLee) Smith of Pincher Creek, AB; sister Donalee Smith-Duncan of Kimberley, BC; Rick (Donna) Smith of Castlegar, BC; sisters in-law Janette Whittle, Cochrane and Marlene Phillips, Calgary; and brothers in-law Buster Fenton, Jim (Joanne) Fenton, John (Joanne) Fenton, and Alan (Debbie) Fenton, all of Cochrane. He is further survived by 14 Mickle/Smith and 17 Fenton nieces and nephews and their families, numerous cousins, friends, and neighbours.
He was predeceased by mother Rita (1979); brother Ray Smith (1963) and former sister in-law Adair Roy (2013); sister Lynne Eyma (2008) and brother in-law Jay Eyma (2022); uncle Lenny (1977) & auntie Jo (1987) Mickle; father Norman (1995); father and mother in-law Elmer (1996) & Isobel (2008) Fenton; brother in-law Dave Whittle (2013); and brother in-law Bob Phillips (2019).
Thanks to the Dialysis Unit at Olds Hospital for their care and attention to Gary over the past six years, three times each week - they let Calynn know him more, and Hiller and Emma meet their great-Gramps; the Acute Care Unit for their inspired and inspiring support for Gary and family through the end of his journey; Olds Home Care for their help these past three years; Dr. Jim in Red Deer; and Dad’s long-time family doctor, the inimitable Dr. Duong. Gary’s family has come to know these folks much better than expected and their health care of Gary made all the difference.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Wednesday, February 1st, 2023 at the Olds Regional Exhibition’s Cow Palace. The bar opens at 3:00 p.m., the service will be at 4:00 p.m., beef dinner will be served at 5:00 p.m. along with a dance by live music. Dad’s favourite song of the 1990s was “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox”; his celebration will be the ‘next best thing’. There will be “Gramps’ Cookie Bar” courtesy of the Harmattan Community Centre ‘ladies’. The Celebration service will be livestreamed as well.
Donations in Gary’s memory may be sent to the Olds Healthcare Fundraising Committee: www.oldshealthdonations.com; phone: 403-556-3505; e-mail: [email protected]; 3901-57th Avenue, Olds, AB, T4H 1T4. The Celebration will include a ‘donation bar’ with all proceeds going here as well. Messages of condolence for the family can be emailed to [email protected].
“This is where the cowboy rides away…”