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Service held for peace activist who founded sister-city program

Richard E. SmithSmith

UPDATED: Arlington's quiet liberal lion, a veteran who opposed wars, will no longer take his familiar seat next to his wife at Town Meeting this spring. Richard Earl Smith, a 50-year resident of Arlington, died Friday, Dec. 27, after a short fight with cancer. He was 83.

A world traveler, he founded the Arlington-Nagaokakyo, Japan, Sister City Program in 1984.

Known to all as Dick, he believed that the only approach to war is peace, a position he expressed with activity in various peace groups, especially the Veterans for Peace.

Jan. 11 service

A service to celebrate his life will be held at the Masonic Lodge, 19 Academy St., Arlington at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, followed by an opportunity to remember him with his family and friends over refreshments at the lodge.

He was politically active, backing liberal/progressive candidates and issues at all levels of government and serving a longtime member of the Arlington Democratic Committee.

Janice Bakey, a former member of the School Committee, told YourArlington on Monday, Dec. 30: "I first met Dick in the very early 1980s. He just appeared out of the blue at my front door, saying he heard that I was running for School Committee. He asked if I could use some help and if so he was offering his.

"He did help, a lot, but as he often commented afterwards that he also probably helped me lose that first race, because the current Democrats were not happy with him for some of his stands. We often laughed about that over the years.

"And our paths often crossed -- on many of the same campaigns but also in those years with an alternative to the ADTC, called the Arlington Committee. This Committee was made up of progressive Democrats who were working for change from the old politics. And change they eventually brought."

As founder of the Nagaokakyo program, Bakey wrote that she "was only one of so many he helped with a trip to there. We still are in touch with a city official and our home stay hosts.

"Dick had a great mind coupled with a generous heart. He will be missed in our community and beyond. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."

Born in Worcester, he graduated from North High School in 1948. After high school he joined the Army and served in Germany for eight years.

He graduated from the University of Alabama and Harvard Law School, who he met future governor Michael Dukakis. Their friendship led Dukakis to help honor the late Margaret "Peg" Spengler, a major Arlington figure, at Town Hall in 2009.

Smith retired from the Bank of Boston in 1992.

He was a recognized expert in stock-transfer law. He worked for the next 10 years in many former Soviet Bloc countries and in Egypt as a consultant. He loved traveling, visiting almost 100 countries.

He was a familiar face to those who attend the monthly dinners held by members of the Arlington email list.

Smith is survived by his wife, Ann (Hillsen); son, David (and wife, Toni); daughters Roslyn Smith and Sharon Tice; granddaughters, Maryann Davis and Sara Smith; great-grandson, Grady Davis; nieces: Sandy Nordstrom, Kathy DiMartino and Sharon Edison Zalcman; nephews Jerry Edison and Eric Hillsen; cousin Wayne Hall and many great-nephews and nieces.

Obituary information was provided by the Keefe Funeral Home.

His family suggests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Veterans for Peace, P.O. Box 1604, Andover, MA 01810, and/or Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Donor Services, P.O. Box 4072, Pittsfield, MA 01202.

Another remembrance

Cindy Friedman, who represents Sen. Ken Donnelly, Democrat of Arlington, wrote Dec. 31:

"The first serious involvement I had in a political campaign was the Dukakis King rematch. Dick ran the effort in Arlington. I didn't know that many people and I was nervous about volunteering and just showing up at a place where I didn't know anyone or what skill I could offer.

"Dick not only made me feel welcome and competent, but he became a mentor to me. He taught me that not only is every job in a campaign important regardless of how small or occasional, but most importantly, campaigns are about community and building a community of people that would continue to work together in purpose and in fun after a particular race was over.

"He led by example and always treated the volunteers who worked on the many campaigns he led  with respect and kindness. I couldn't have had a better teacher. He was a truly lovely person and will miss him."

This story was published Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, and updated the next day.

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