Share |
Text Size Smaller Text Larger Text

Remembering Ivan Smith


Ivan Smith

My Dad, Ivan Smith, grew up under the guidance of the Toledo YMCA. It was during his Jr. Hi-Y days that he must have met Doc Miller, who sensed the lack of parental leadership Ivan was experiencing from his own father. Doc “adopted” him and got him involved in (then called) Camp Storer. In 1926, Dad received his fifth year camper emblem, going on the fifth year canoe trip and earning the gold medal honor camper award. Ivan worked his way up through various leadership positions, from junior counselor, to counselor, to teaching swimming, to directing the waterfront, to Associate Camp Director, to filling in for Doc as Camp Director occasionally when Doc had to be away.

I remember a story of the camp Jeep which would not start. Either Doc or Clark Ewing asked the staff if anyone knew how to fix it. Dad apparently, having no experience with auto mechanics, said, “I can do it!” I guess he fiddled with the Jeep all day before coming up with the solution. When he told me that story, it was obviously for the purpose of urging me to step to the plate when something was needed, even if I wasn’t quite sure of what to do.

Ivan’s own father, Walter H. Smith, died at the beginning of 1926, and Doc took Dad, then 15 years old, more under his wing at that point. He eventually became Associate Director of Camp, responsible for food buying, program planning, athletics, and staff counseling (according to his later application for officer rank in the U. S. Navy during World War II).

Ivan appears in old Camp Storer photos up through the early 1940s. I’m even in several of them with my Mother holding me at first, then down in the front row a couple of times. Included in the photos are people I came to know: Doc, Clark, my uncle Robert Ash, my cousin Larry Bandfield, Bill “Jalopy” Merhab, Carl Bruno, and more.

I attended (still) Camp Storer in the early 1950s once, living in Older Boys Camp across the lake. My brother, Nelson, was there that same week in main camp. I lived through the infamous “Jackson Prison escaped axe-murderer story” told my my counselor one night - rather tame to what youth growing up today have to deal with in their actual lives. But I digress...

I believe that my life has been shaped by the influence of Doc Miller and Camp Storer on Dad: “I’m Third” guided me to a career as a professional social worker and later educator. Dad’s Jeep story has helped me to leap into difficult social and political situations with the conviction to help and intervene when necessary. Dad’s deep friendship with Bill Merhab opened my eyes to the world beyond my own culture. Carl Bruno, who followed Dad in his YMCA career from Toledo to Chicago, taught me the legacy of caring when he literally swooped down in his Piper Cub one winter when I was a student in Ann Arbor and flew me up north for my first experience at downhill skiing. Yes, and even Doc’s adopted moniker lives through my own nickname, DocSmith, acquired after my PhD was earned in 1973. I never use it without remembering and honoring Doc Miller. As a musician, I have even been tagged “Doc Harp” for my harmonica playing by fellow band members.

I’m writing this on the 60th anniversary of the AuSable Cabin being dedicated to Ivan Smith (August 4, 1960). The plaque was a bit dusty when I last visited it a few years ago but the cabin brings back memories of when YMCA Storer Camps was still Camp Storer and having a powerful influence on Ivan Smith’s life, as well as mine.

Dr. Marshall L Smith
Professor Emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology
Professor (Retired), University of Hawai`i at Manoa


Click here to go back to the Alumni Stories page.

Media Gallery