Saying Goodbye to One of the Family
As many of you know by now, Jim Smith, the editor of Tire Review, died on Feb. 18 at the young age of 57. Jim entered the industry as assistant editor for Modern Tire Dealer in June of 1984, and had already moved up to senior editor when he called me to see if I was interested in his vacated assistant editor position. Thirty-one years later, I am still here, and I have Jim to thank for it.
Jim left MTD to work for Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. in 1988. He strayed from his comfort zone and joined Stumpf Bartels Advertising Inc. in 1991. He returned to the tire industry as editor of Tire Review in 1999, and remained there until his death.
Greg Smith, our publisher, was the man who hired Jim in 1984. Two other longtime MTD employees, Production Manager Karen Runion and Managing Editor Lori Mavrigian, also were here when Jim came on board. Here are their thoughts.
Greg Smith: “Jim Smith and I were very good friends. Not the kind of friends who had to talk to each other on a regular basis, but the kind who could go separate ways, who as soon as they saw each other could instantly pick up where they left off the last time they were together.
“The jobs both of us held required that we traveled to many industry events together. Trust me, some trips went smoother than others, but through it all, we could keep each other sane by cracking jokes that made us laugh at the situations. Sometimes company personnel couldn’t understand how two competitors could do this, but believe me, it was easy. We had a field day at one ride-and-drive on a very hot afternoon. As 50-year-olds standing on the hot asphalt, we watched as the young models holding shade umbrellas ran to the consumer media ‘pretty boys’ to keep them company and give them shade. Yep, we were sweating, but we laughed about it, knowing it was a sign we were ‘over the hill.’
“Many years ago, probably about the time he returned to the area to work for Tire Review, he coined the phrase about he and I being “the Smith brothers.” It was a badge of honor. After all, neither of us could count the number of times we were called by the other guy’s first name, not to mention sometimes receiving an email meant for the other guy. As tough as it is to write, I lost my ‘brother’ in February.”
Karen Runion: “From the time I met him, Jim worked hard on the job and enjoyed his time off it. This was especially true at the old ARA and NTDRA conventions. He always enjoyed a good, and expensive, meal! Even after he left MTD, we would catch up each year at the big industry events. I will really miss his sarcasm and his dry sense of humor at the SEMA Show this year. It won’t be as fun without him.”
Lori Mavrigian: “Jim was a funny, brilliant man whom I had the pleasure of working with years ago here at Modern Tire Dealer. We remained friendly competitors over the years, and I always looked forward to catching up with him on press trips. I will miss his wonderful, sarcastic wit.
“I will always treasure this, my favorite Jim Smith story: He and his wife had their first child while Jim was working at MTD. After a long night of coaching his wife through labor, he came to our office to tell us of the good news of the birth of his son. He told us, ‘He’s not too long, he’s not too short. He’s... well... perfect.’”
Before he left MTD, Jim left us with this nugget of an analogy: “Mrs. Butterworth’s into food, but that doesn’t mean she makes lime Jell-O.” We still don’t know what it means, but it still brings smiles to our faces. — Bob Ulrich
Readers posted plenty of comments on Ulrich’s blog celebrating his 34-year friendship with Jim Smith. Here are a few of them.
Jim will be missed as a husband, father and grandfather for his love, caring and passion for life. Those same attributes were apparent to all of us in the industry; through his fairness, integrity and genuine interest in all who he encountered. Maryellen and family — you along with Jim are in our prayers during this time of loss. — Matt Edmonds and The Tire Rack family
Terrible news. A wonderful, kind and decent man who has left us far too early. Sad day for his family, friends and the industry. — Dan Zielinski
Thanks, Bob, for a great tribute. Thinking of the two of you together made me smile. Jim was truly an original and a fine individual. — Suzy Mitchell
Well said, Bob. I witnessed that incredible friendship you and Jim had on a bit of a bus ride we took one time at a product launch. I still remember it. — Steve Hutchinson