- About Us
"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show..."
So begins Charles Dickens’ novel David Copperfield, an author introduced to me by my father, Clifford Bradley Smith II—“Brad” to his friends. We always shared a fascination with and love of good stories and good storytelling, sharing and comparing our favorite books, movies, and TV shows throughout my life. He taught me to pick apart the different strategies used by the storytellers, but also to appreciate the value of simply sitting back and allowing yourself to be entertained. Brad passed away August 20, 2018 at the age of 63 after a yearlong battle with melanoma. To me, and to the many people who knew and loved him, there can be no doubt: Brad was indeed the hero of his own life, as well as a hero to many of the lives he touched along the way.
Brad was born in Kansas City, Missouri on June 18, 1955. With his father, Clifford Beverly Smith (“Cliff”), he shared a fondness for cinnamon-flavored candies and an avid devotion to Kansas City sports. The family had season tickets for both baseball and football, and Brad grew up cheering for the KC Royals and the KC Chiefs in their stadiums. Cliff also taught him the value of education and justice, lessons Brad internalized at an early age. He baffled his elementary school teachers by reading Dickens, and even as a boy he strove to ensure that those around him were following the rules. A favorite memory of his older sister, Dr. Allison S. Bartlett, is of him and his friends creating a “speed trap” shortly after getting his driver’s license. People tended to drive 15-20 miles over the speed limit down a nearby boulevard through a residential neighborhood, so my father and his friends drove three cars abreast down that boulevard going exactly the speed limit for twenty blocks and backing up traffic for miles.
With his mother, Phyllis Smith, Brad showed horses, an activity which fed his love of animals and also developed a gentle firmness in him. These skills allowed him to create special bonds with the many animals in his life, especially his beloved German shepherd Bear, who was his faithful shadow and protector for many years. Not only did he excel at working with animals, but he enjoyed working with people as well. His direct communication and kind disposition made him a good teacher, both as he shared what he knew about the horse business and as he coached several little-league sports.
As a teenager, Brad went several times to a wilderness camp in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he fell in love with the mountains and the culture of the West. It was a love that would follow him for the rest of his life, but he was destined to be a “city boy” for a while longer. He attended Northwestern University outside of Chicago, where he studied theater and television and added the Wildcats to the list of teams he followed faithfully. He joined the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity—or the “Fijis”—a family tradition including his father, uncle, and cousin, who joined Brad in standing around the piano at holiday celebrations, serenading and entertaining their audience with Fiji songs. While in school, Brad had many adventures and laughs with his fraternity brothers, memories he would tell stories about for the rest of his life.
Brad later decided to pursue a career in law like his father, which he found was a good use of his practical and analytical mind. While preparing for law school, he took a number of classes in Kansas City. On the first day of computer class, he saw and smiled at a “cute girl.” The next day he shooed several other students away in order to save the seat next to him for her. On December 28, 1982, he married that girl—Deb Smith, or “Debber” as he liked to call her. After he finished law school at Gonzaga in Spokane—he would later get his masters at Lewis and Clark in Portland—the couple settled in Cody, Wyoming, fulfilling his dream of living in the West.
In Cody, Brad worked for the law firm Simonton and Simonton, and there he and Deb had their two children: me and my brother Danny. The same gentle firmness he learned from working with animals prepared him well for fatherhood. Those were happy years of exploration, laughter, and many practical lessons. Dad raised us with fierce protectiveness and pride, along with an endless supply of quiet, patient love.
In 1998, Brad accepted a job with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality in Helena negotiating mine waste clean-up contracts. There he combined his legal skills with his passion for the beauty of nature, working tirelessly in the background to pave the way for the smooth restoration of several Montana rivers and streams.
When not working, Brad enjoyed exploring new stories through books and television, whipping up meals from whatever he found in the pantry, and soundly defeating any opponent in cribbage. He was a great lover of music, whether sharing his classic rock collection with me, singing in local church or city choirs, or discussing the more technical aspects with my brother, who inherited his love and talent for music. The two could while away hours discussing different pieces, and some of my father’s proudest moments were at Danny’s concerts. Brad also spent as much time as he could in the outdoors that he loved. Biking was his favorite, or spending time at the family cabin in Paradise Valley. In later years he began visiting Hawaii, whose beaches he loved as much as his mountains. And of course, he could often be found cheering on KC sports teams with his family.
Brad was known for his dry, intelligent humor; he was fond of cartoons like Looney Tunes, Peanuts, and Calvin and Hobbes. He will also always be known as a man of great kindness and integrity. Brad will be greatly missed—by his family and many friends—but in the words of one close friend, his passion, humor, and spirit will always be with us.
It was his wish that, instead of a sorrowful service commemorating his death, his family and friends could gather to remember and share the good times of his life. His Celebration of Life will be on September 15, from 1:00-4:00pm in the Tuscany Room at Bert and Ernie’s; 361 N. Last Chance Gulch; Helena, MT 59601.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Clark Fork Coalition, PO Box 7593; Missoula, MT 59807, in recognition of Brad’s extensive legal work on the cleanup of the Clark Fork River, Silver Bow Creek, and the Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex.