Remarks from Don Smith’s Celebration of Life at UUFA

Don Randall gave these remarks at the celebration of Don’s life held on November 19 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens.

Don was born in Jackson, MI in 1936 around this time of the year. Only it was a lot colder in Michigan in late November. That may be the reason he later developed a habit of baking bread and apple pie using his mother’s recipes, as he celebrated with family and friends on his birthday and Thanksgiving. Don was the second of four children, and I bet the kitchen was a busy place. 

We here knew Don as a warm, quiet, friendly person. In this Fellowship he found an intellectual and spiritual community that also nurtured his deep commitment to social justice. Don was a member of the Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition, the choir, the Social Action Committee, and participated in Women and Men in Black. I also learned of a rich background to his life that unfolded for me as I talked with his daughter, Donna, in preparation for this service, I learned of an amazing man who had led a wondrous life. She described him as a true Renaissance man. He was equally at home baking in the kitchen, working on a motor, growing a garden, having a beer with friends, strumming a ukulele, doing academic research, teaching a seminar, all while learning a new language or culture. 

Don is often described as a gentle man by those who knew him best. His gentleness led him to be a conscientious objector during the Korean War, and because of his academic background he did alternative service teaching in Japan. He had earned a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Michigan and, with an aptitude for learning languages, this was a perfect fit for him. During his life he held academic appointments at several prestigious universities, including the University of Hawaii, the University of Georgia, and for more than thirty years at Japan’s Kyoto University and Aoygam Gakuin University. 

Don is survived by his wife, Boonchu, 5 children (daughters Donna, Catherine “Catie”, Kattariya “Kate”, and sons Daniel and Parinya “Nat”. 5 grandchildren: Kira, Apolo, Alessia, Emma, and Gracie, and by his siblings Kelvin, Loretta, and Nancy.

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