KATIE SMITH MILWAY
Last Thursday two of Bowen Island's great personalities had an unlikely crossing at Lion's Gate Hospital: Bob Turner, our mayor, was recovering in Room 623 from a hip replacement as Mallory Smith, a well-known civic engager and 40-year member of the island community, fought his final battle with multiple myeloma, dying at 80, next door in Room 621.
As Mal's wife Mary Ann, daughter Katie and granddaughter Sophie paid their final respects, Bob was exercising his new hip and caught the eye of a Smith family friend lingering in the hall - John Weston, Bowen Island's MP. "Glad you are with us, Bob," said Weston. "The unofficial mayor of Bowen has just left us."
"Mallory's death leaves a huge hole in our community," says Mayor Turner, who is now convalescing at home on Bowen. "Mallory was very loved - at his church, in the coffee shops, at the Legion, on the street.
"He was one of our island's revered elders - he spoke with a confidence that flowed from a deep well of integrity. I so admired his direct words, often carrying a strong opinion, yet completely civil and gentlemanly. If he liked something, he said it. If he didn't like something, he said it. I always knew where I stood with Mallory."
"And," the mayor added, "I so admired his cheerfulness and determination through his long illness. He taught us all a lot. I will miss him greatly."
Indeed, while Mallory flew off U.S. aircraft carriers during the Korean War and arbitrated with unions as CEO of national forest-products firm, Koppers International Canada, some see his greatest triumphs in the many and varied ways that he shaped island life across a critical epoch that saw Bowen grow from a tiny year-round population in 1970 as part of the Island's Trust, to our current 3,500-strong population and status as an independent municipality. Abetting this transition, in 1989 Mal, then 58, purchased Bowen Island Realty with partner Wolfgang Duntz and spent the next decade helping families settle into homes.
"Mallory is the reason for my husband's success in business as a designer/builder here on Bowen," said Cathy Peters, of Scarborough. "He believed in my husband, Allan, over 20 years ago, and as a realtor encouraged his clients to hire him."
She added that Mal had helped launch her son's career as well. "Our son Joshua has deep respect for Mal and Mary Ann, because they helped him to follow his political dreams and aspirations, working for and with John Weston, here in West Vancouver and Ottawa.
Walt Ruloff, who bought his first Bowen home from Mal on Miller's Landing in the mid 90s, recalls Mal's dry wit. Having paid several visits to the log cabin he coveted, without making an offer, Ruloff finally called Mal one day and said, "I want to buy the house."
"Oh" replied Mal. "What year?"
The cast of visitors to Mal's bedside over his final six months spoke to his many involvements from the Hood Point water committee to serving as starter for Bowen Island Yacht Club races, chairing Weston's nomination campaign and singing with the Artisan Squires. Prominent among visitors were young and old from Cates Hill Chapel, which Mal and Mary Ann co-founded with several other couples in January 1991, renting the music room of Bowen Island Community School on Sundays until Smooth Stones Foundation built the current chapel on Carter Rd. alongside Island Pacific School, all on land donated by Cates Hill Joint Venture. .
In his final years of retirement, Mal could be found most mornings drinking coffee and doing his crossword puzzles at the Village Baker, even in the midst of chemotherapy. Say Neil Reynolds, owner of the bakery with his wife Helen, "It was a great privilege to get to know Mallory over the years at the bakery. His determination to get his coffee every day, no matter what pain he was in, was an inspiration to myself and Helen. He was always cheerful, and will be greatly missed by myself and all the staff at the bakery."
Blue Eyed Mary's and Cates Hill Chapel hosted a living tribute for Mal on his 80th birthday on January 10, with friends from across the island. On March 20, family and friends will host a final tribute at a 3:15 p.m. memorial service at Cates Hill Chapel.
Meanwhile a heartfelt string of Mallory Smith tributes sprang up on the Bowen Online forum, the day Mayor Turner emerged from his hospital room, and Mal did not. Commented Barbara Wilshire, publisher of the island's Gold Pages: "During my 25 years on this island, Mallory has always been a front and centre personality. I don't think any of us can really measure his incredible contribution to Bowen."
Katie Smith Milway is Mallory Smith's daughter. She lives with her family in Boston.